The Hawks are hoping to do an Italian Job on Tonbridge Angels at Westleigh Park tomorrow (3pm) as they look for vital points to pull away from the Blue Square Bet South relegation zone.
Bologna-born Christian Nanetti makes his home debut for the Hawks and the exciting winger will have a crucial part to play in unlocking the visitors’ defence.
Since Wes Fogden departed for AFC Bournemouth last October, the Hawks have lacked pace and creativity on the flanks.
It is a gap that needed filling and, after Nanetti impressed against the Hawks for AFC Wimbledon in a friendly, manager Shaun Gale paid an undisclosed fee to buy him from Ryman League Lewes.
The diminutive Nanetti has shown in his first two outings, at Dartford and Bromley respectively, that he can be a handful for opposition defences.
At Bromley in midweek, the former QPR youth player almost helped the Hawks snatch all three points by laying on a great chance for striker Ollie Palmer.
Unfortunately, instead of hitting a first-time effort, Palmer tried to take a touch and the ball ran away from him.
Gale believes Nanetti has a crucial part to play in keeping his side out of the drop zone heading into their final eight league games of the season.
‘Christian has bags of pace, great feet and a low centre of gravity which takes him past players,’ said Gale.
‘We have struggled to replace Wes Fogden and have, without a doubt, suffered because of it.
‘He is a hard act to follow because he scored a lot of goals from midfield.
‘Now we have restored a bit of balance down our left-hand side and Christian is linking well with Chris Arthur, who was with him at Queens Park Rangers.
‘Christian is only 20 years old and will only get better.
‘He also showed at Bromley that he is prepared to get back and help out defensively which is what you need in a relegation dogfight.’
The Hawks have been far from impressive in front of their home fans this season but tomorrow is a game they cannot afford to slip up in.
The goalless draw at Bromley edged Gale’s side two points above the bottom three and, with the clubs below showing signs of improvement, points are needed.
Tonbridge will arrive intent on gaining revenge for their 2-1 home defeat before Christmas and are in good form, having beaten Truro and Eastleigh in the past week.
Young Hawks goalkeeper Daniel Thomas is also set for a home debut after signing from AFC Bournemouth, and Gale has an almost full-strength squad to choose from.
Chris Holland returned to training in the week after a knee injury and, although a couple of players are carrying knocks, Gale expects them to be fit. Perry Ryan came off ill at half-time in the week and is a doubt, though.
‘This is a great opportunity for us to put a bit more breathing space between us and the clubs below us,’ said Gale.
‘We must look to retain our solid defence of midweek because we will create chances at the other end.
‘Getting back-to-back results is important at this stage and we want all three points.’
Hawks: Thomas, Newton, Dolan, Pearce, Arthur, Ramsey, Hutchinson, Ryan, Hinshelwood, Nanetti, Jones, Palmer, Thompson, Igoe, Hopkinson, Woodford, McDonald, Beazley.