A balancing act needs to be played by Deal manager Steve King as they prepare to visit frontrunners Glebe this weekend.
The Hoops, who have moved on to the coat-tails of the Southern Counties East Premier Division play-off places after a terrible start to the season, head to Foxbury Avenue on Saturday.
King has had to contend with injury problems all campaign so far and is sweating on the fitness of several key players ahead of a huge game.
But with Deal hoping to make the play-offs, King knows he cannot afford to burn his troops out before then, having reached the 2022/23 Kent Senior Trophy Final and finished third in the league - three points behind champions Erith & Belvedere.
“It’s a long old season,” said King, who lost forward Rory Smith in the warm-up ahead of last Tuesday’s home defeat to Snodland before he returned in midweek.
“We’ve learnt from last year. We finished it absolutely on our knees.
“But, with the play-offs this season, we cannot afford to finish the season on our knees.
“It’s a balancing act. We need to get into the play-offs, obviously, otherwise it’s pointless not risking them.
“A lot of the players - like Rory and Kane Smith - they have got niggles.
“They’re not long term.”
Glebe presently top the Southern Counties East Premier Division pile, albeit they have played two games more than title favourites Faversham. They have 11-goal hitman Jamie Philpot, only behind Faversham frontman Stefan Payne (13), among their ranks as a big weapon.
King said: “We’ve had a report on them and done our homework. They have started the season very well.
“It’s another game that we are looking forward to. We know all about Jamie Philpot.
“Lydd beat Faversham last week. I think people were looking at them to run away with it but Faversham already have lost three games.
“Sheppey and Chatham didn’t lose that many all season when they both went up. So, it’s shaping up to be an exciting division.
“Glebe is going to be a very good test. We will try to win the game.
“But if we are beaten on the day by the better team, like we were against Snodland, I will hold my hands up.”
One player the Hoops do have back at their disposal is key forward Tom Chapman.
King explained: “Tom Chapman will be back from suspension. He’s a massive player.”
Deal suffered a rare home loss to Snodland, going down 3-0, but the boss had few complaints.
King accepted: “We were just beaten by the better side on the night, to be honest. There’s no complaints from us.
“We were disappointed with our own performance, it’s the first time in a long time we have not played very well.
“Snodland were ruthless, they have got a very experienced side and have invested heavily. When we’re at it, I think we can beat them.
“But we put a massive performance in against Erith Town the Saturday before and we have had a lot of rain down here in the last week. We looked a bit leggy and a bit tired.
“They executed their game-plan very well and were worthy winners.”
The Hoops had been due to host Rusthall last Saturday, only for the match at the Charles Sports Ground to fall foul of the weather.
King said: “We were hopeful of getting the game on. But it came down heavily on Friday night and again on Saturday. As frustrating as it was - because we wanted to bounce back - unfortunately, it was off.”
Deal’s reserves have made a strong start in Kent County League Division 1 Central & West.
And King, who’s involved in their under-16s’ side as well, has been thrilled to see some of the club’s youth-team players step up to that level.
He added: “It’s pleasing to see the whole club flourishing.
“If that happens, then long-term success is more likely for the first team.”
Deal won 2-0 away to Bearsted in the Challenge Cup last night thanks to goals from Ben Chapman and Billy Munday in either half.