Portsmouth can’t afford to make any mistakes against London two south west basement club Teddington at Rugby Camp (2.30pm).
That’s the verdict of director of rugby Ed Neville, who regards tomorrow’s game as a must-win if they are to avoid a relegation battle in the second half of the season.
The home side are third from bottom, with just two wins to their name, and desperately need the points.
If they fail, the gap between them and the clubs above could widen and leave them further adrift.
Teddington are yet to win this season but have drawn with Weybridge Vandals who are above Portsmouth in the league.
‘This is a big game for us and it is vital that we remain focused,’ said Neville.
‘We need the points, which would put us back within two points of the four teams above us.
‘If we can do that then it could provide us with the springboard for moving up into a far more comfortable position.
‘I want to see us control the game up front to establish a solid platform before releasing our three-quarters.
‘Our forwards have been outstanding in the line-outs and at the breakdown in recent games.’
Stand-in captain Greg Hoolihan is proving a key figure in the club’s bid to improve since a shaky start to the season.
Hoolihan was skipper two years ago and agreed to step into the breach at the start of this season when injury ruled out Luke Richardson for the whole campaign with a shoulder injury.
He has shown great leadership and provided a perfect example when times get difficult.
In the heavy defeat at Guildford last weekend it was Hoolihan who rallied the troops to take the game to their hosts in the final 15 minutes to restore a lot of pride.
‘Two years ago Greg could be a bit hot-headed and get himself into trouble,’ said Neville.
‘Now he is older and wiser and far more disciplined. He leads from the front and is also a key figure for us with his immaculate throwing in to the line-out.’
Portsmouth are boosted by the timely return of a number of influential players for this key game.
In the forwards, Darren Crabbe, Will Brock and Gareth Richards are all back, while Curtis Barnes and Tom Whitehouse will bring their pace into the three-quarters.
United Services face a tough assignment at Hampshire one title-chasing rivals Fordingbridge.
Services travel in confident mood, however, after their comprehensive 41-15 demolition job against Farnborough.
Four points separate the top four sides and third-placed Services are keen to keep the pressure on leaders Millbrook.
‘All the top sides play each other in the next couple of weeks so it is an important time,’ said director of rugby Simon Burns.
The visitors hope to have danger-man Steve Gee available after his hat-trick last weekend.