Canvey Island will have to play out the climax of their Ryman League Premier Division title challenge without the services of their most experienced defender Mick Bodley.

The former Chelsea, Southend United and Peterborough star had been out since November following a knee operation, but had returned in recent weeks.

However, he suffered a tendon injury in last weekend's 3-3 home draw with Bedford Town and manager Jeff King admitted today: "Bods won't play again this season.

"It's a big blow as we need each and every member of the squad for the nine remaining games, but it's just one of those things and we have to knuckle down and get on with the job."

King had a number of other regular First-teamers missing when they made the Essex Senior Cup semi-finals with a 1-0 win at First Division Harlow on Wednesday.

However, there are high hopes that goalkeeper Ashley Harrison (heel), Steve Parmenter (back) and Ben Chenery (neck) will be fit for tomorrow's trip to Maidenhead United.

Gravesend's defeat at Purfleet on Monday has added extra spice to the race to win the coveted spot in the Nationwide Conference and the Kent club's home clash with Canvey on Tuesday week is now assuming massive importance.

King, sensibly, refuses to look further than one match at a time. "We're at Maidenhead tomorrow and that's the only game I'm thinking about at the moment. We've got nine games to go now and are three points clear of Gravesend.

"They may have two games in hand but, with our vastly superior goal difference, we'd almost certainly take the title if we won the lot."

For those of a nervous disposition finding the pressures of the title race too much, Canvey are in action on Monday night when they visit Billericay Town's New Lodge ground to take on Chelmsford City in the Essex Senior Cup semi-finals.

Gulls fans will be hoping that Gravesend continue on the downward spiral following Monday's defeat at Purfleet by losing at Sutton United tomorrow.

Published Friday, March 15, 2002