Devastated by FA Cup loss – but manager is not quitting

Ben Swallow tries to get the Rocks on the attack at Oxford / Picture by Tommy McMillan
Ben Swallow tries to get the Rocks on the attack at Oxford / Picture by Tommy McMillan

Jack Pearce admits he was ‘devastated’ by Bognor missing on an FA Cup first-round spot – but insists a new manager is not the answer to the team’s recent poor results.

The Rocks turned in a very disappointing display to lose 1-0 at Oxford City in the final qualifying round of the Cup, bringing new pressure on Pearce to turn things around.

Some fans want a new man running the team but Pearce said the squad was getting stronger, the search for two more new players would go on and he was confident results would improve once additions were made and injuries cleared up.

The loss at Oxford has drawn a new level of criticism from supporters and Pearce said he fully accepted that, although he again said personal attacks on him on social media would hit the club’s attempts to attract good new players.

Bognor host Chippenham in the league this Saturday in what feels like a huge game. The Rocks are one place and two points above the National League South’s bottom three and have not won a league game since August 15. But injuries and unavailability continue to plague them.

With defenders Sami El-Abd and James Crane both still out with hamstring and shoulder injuries, midfielder and captain Dan Beck is now away for two weeks.

Our performance last Saturday to the naked eye was not acceptable and I was absolutely devastated by it.

Jack Pearce

Winger Alex Parsons has joined Worthing after being unable to commit to midweek training with Bognor, although does remain dual-registered so could play for the Rocks in an emergenct.

On the flip side, new duo Kristian Campbell and Ibra Sekajja will both be available – and both could remain at Nyewood Lane beyond the initial month each has signed for.

Left-back Campbell has impressed during his spell on loan from Bromley while the club also have high hopes for former Crystal Palace and Dulwich Hamlet forward Sekajja.

Pearce admitted the FA Cup defeat – which deprived the club of a first-round visit to League Two side Colchester and at least another £12,500 in prize money – was tough to take.

“It’s disappointing to lose any cup game. For me the only shining light on the day was the youngester player in the team, Tommy Block,” Pearce said.

“I’m disappointed for the supporters, who were excellent. The irony is the Oxford scorer Matt Paterson was one of my main targets in the summer but we couldn’t afford what he wanted.

“The atmosphere in training has been excellent, and even in the warm-up at Oxford all looked well. But there’s no excuse – when it came to it, we just didn’t perform.

“I say again – we are at a level where we are playing very good sides. Some supporters want us to go out and get a new manager and sign a load of new players but more often than not, that doesn’t have the required effect. There’s no magic solution.

“We’ve brought in Kristian and Ibra and we’re still in the market for two more, including a centre-forward. We have players who have potential but are not ready to play every week in this hard, physical league.

“We have a couple of possible new players we are looking at in training tonight as we know we are still a couple short of being competitive. We agreed loan deals for two players from Football League clubs – eveything was in place but then they didn’t want to come. So it’s not easy.

“In any league, whether it’s the Premier League or non-league, there will be good teams near the bottom. Look at Everton and Stoke in the Premier League, for example. They have good managers and good players but changing their present situation is not easy.

“We are playing in a very competitive league in which most teams have a lot of physicality. We don’t have that and it’s a major issue. And we’re not saying we’re not going to bring in physical players.

“Our performance last Saturday to the naked eye was not acceptable and I was absolutely devastated by it.

“Remember we have not got one player who was playing at this level last season – not even the two new ones we have brought in.

“Did I expect us to be top of this league? No. Did I expect us to be in the bottom third trying to establish ourselves? More than likely.

“We should have maybe four more points than we have and if we had them we’d be in the mid-table pack.

“I’m personally enjoying the challenge and I’d ask the critics, is it a personal issue with me? We need good players and no-one comes up with names. But if a young player thinking of coming here reads some of the personal stuff on social media, he’s not going to sign for us.

“We must all keep believing in the players. If you’d seen them training on Tuesday night, you’d think they were top of the league, not struggling.”

* Bognor will play their Sussex Senior Cup second-round tie at Crawley Town on Tuesday, October 31 (7.45pm).

The rearranged home National League South match against Oxford City will be played on Tuesday, November 21.

STEVE BONE