Published: 06:00, 31 January 2020
Ben Smith has branded Herne Bay’s trip to in-form Hythe as their toughest match left to play this season.
Steve Watt’s Cannons are joint-top of the form table alongside Ashford.
Watt gave new arrivals Darren Oldaker and Tom Murphy their debuts in their 3-0 victory at Haywards Heath last weekend, leaving Hythe 11th in Isthmian South East.
But Smith’s fifth-placed side have taken seven points from their past three games ahead of Saturday’s encounter at Reachfields.
The Bay boss said: “If you look at the players they (Hythe) have got, they have what I’d say is the most experienced team in the league. A lot of the players they have brought in have dropped down leagues to be there.
“They made some great signings last week, as well.
“I would say this is probably the hardest game we have got left by a mile. But we go there with nothing to fear.
“I know they beat us in the league earlier in the season (2-0 in September) but both sides are very different now.
“In the Velocity Trophy game (a 2-1 Hythe success in November), that wasn’t the side we would normally have out, so you can’t really read too much into that, either.
“With the form they are in, they probably go in as favourites. But I think form goes out the window in these games.
“They probably have to win to stay in with a chance of making the play-offs now.
“Obviously, we have a few games in hand on them.
“So if we can go there and get a win, it will be massive.”
The derby at Hythe starts a crucial month for Herne Bay who have eight league fixtures in February, including three Kent derbies with Bay hosting Ramsgate on Tuesday with a trip to Faversham also yet to come.
Smith said: “I think, by February 22, after the home game against Three Bridges, we will know where we are at.
“We have some big games coming up, playing Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday.
“The games against the likes of Ramsgate and Faversham are not easy games at all.
“The league table might suggest that but they will be very tough games.”
Former Yeovil and Barnet midfielder Anthony Edgar has also recently joined Bay.
He scored on his debut in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Chichester but missed their draw against leaders Hastings on Tuesday, although Smith insists he only rested Edgar as a precaution.
Smith said: “Anthony is a class player, a class act. He is another player in the attacking third that other teams will have to look and think ‘How are we gonna stop him?’ So, that’s good.
“We need to give Zak (Ansah) some support.”