Prior’s month will lift Rocks - but could he stay longer?

Jason Prior in action at Bognor during his last spell - he returns to Nyewood Lane this Saturday   Picture by Chris Hatton
Jason Prior in action at Bognor during his last spell - he returns to Nyewood Lane this Saturday Picture by Chris Hatton

JASON PRIOR’S return has already lifted the Rocks – and the on-loan striker is being backed to make a huge difference to the season, even if he stays only a month.

The former Nyewood Lane favourite is back at Bognor on a month’s loan from Margate and his second Rocks debut saw him play a key role in the excellent 1-0 win away to Dulwich Hamlet on Saturday.

He makes his return to the Lane when the Rocks host Hampton and Richmond this weekend, and the management are convinced his physical presence, nose for goal and all-round attitude can influence the squad after he has gone as well as during his month with the club.

Manager Jamie Howell said they had been trying over a long period to get Prior back on loan – and he did not rule out an extension to the forward’s month-long stay if a longer spell suited all parties.

“He made such a difference to the team at Dulwich and we hope over the month he will have exactly the impact we expect from him,” Howell said.

“He is a physical presence as a big centre-forward and in our own box and when we’re under pressure he gives us an ‘out-ball’. He holds play up and brings others into play so well.

“Having him back has given everyone a lift and has boosted confidence. At Dulwich, it was a real team effort and that’s important because Jason is only here on loan.”

Prior scored nearly 100 goals for the Rocks between September, 2009, and January, 2012, at a rate of well over one every two games and his presence in Saturday’s squad is sure to put some extra numbers on the gate.

Could he stay beyond a month? The official line from Bognor is it’s unlikely but Howell said: “We’d love to have him longer if the chairman was happy with the arrangement and if Jason and Margate felt it would benefit him. But for now, we are very grateful to Margate for allowing him here for a month.”

Coach Darin Killpartrick said Prior was a ‘wonderful’ player to have and to work with in training, but fans had to remember they had him for only a month.

“He’s not our player and we just have to make sure we make the best use of him for the month,” said Killpartrick. “He’s a wonderful player and I enjoy working with him because he’s so responsive. And I hope our younger players can learn a lot from him while he’s here.”

Prior played alongside Ollie Pearce and Alex Parsons up front on Saturday, while Stuart Green could add to the attacking options if he is over an ankle injury in time to face Hampton.

Ashley-Paul Robinson has been told by Howell to contact him if he is available again in the near future, while an enquiry has been made about another forward the Rocks are keen to recruit.

The win at Dulwich was the Rocks’ fourth on the road – in contrast to the one in seven games they have managed at home. They aim to improve on that record at home to tenth-placed Hampton on Saturday.

Killpartrick said: “It’s paramount we start playing well and winning at home. There’s nothing wrong with our away form but we have to replicate it at home. The pitches are getting livelier and wetter now and that can help us.

“We’ve had a tendency to start each half of games far too slowly and that has to stop. We have to be at it from the first whistle.”

Bognor will be without knee-injury victim Ben Johnson on Saturday. He is looking at a month or so out with medial damage. And his weekend looks like coming too soon for another knee casualty, Charlie Oatway. But defender James Crane has shown no ill effects after recovering quickly from a thigh strain.

Looking longer-term, left-back Daryl Woller is booked in for a long-awaited hip operation next month and is likely to be back in action before the end of the season.

STEVE BONE

Get first news of the Rocks-Hampton & Richmond game at this website on Saturday