JAMIE HOWELL says the Rocks’ pre-season games are throwing up plenty of positives – and the need for more strength in depth.
Bognor had won one warm-up game and drawn the other two – including a creditable 1-1 draw at home to Pompey at a packed Nyewood Lane last Friday – ahead of the midweek visit to Moneyfield, which the Rocks lost 2-0.
But while Howell is content with howe the team is shaping up, he believes it is vital they keep looking for further signings to add depth to the ranks.
The club’s two big summer signings – striker Jason Prior, who has been made captain, and defender Sami El-Abd – are settling in well, while centre-half Craig Robson, announced as vice-captain to Prior – is forming a solid partnership with El-Abd.
But Bognor did not play as well as Howell would have liked in winning 4-2 at Pagham on Monday night, while one or two players have already picked up niggly injuries.
The manager wants to see a greater level of commitment and characters from players he says should be desperate to be involved when the Ryman premier campaign kicks off at home to Merstham on August 8.
I want to see real hunger – I want to see players trying to impress me and impress the fans.Jamie Howell
“I was really pleased with how we played against Portsmouth,” said Howell. “We had a big crowd in and wanted to make a game of it, and did.
“Early on we couldn’t get near them but we changed it and started to contain them and come into the game more. We equalised through Alfie Rutherford pouncing on a mistake and were delighted to finish 1-1.
“Pompey gave us problems we wouldn’t normally face in our league so it was an excellent test and workout for us. We’re grateful to Portsmouth for sending such a strong squad.
“But at Pagham, I didn’t think we played that well. We looked a bit tired.
“Craig Robson took a whack on the knee against Portsmouth and we have had one or two others, like Daryl Wollers, Jason, Alex Parsons and Terry Dodd, with minor problems.
“So while I’m pleased with the players we have, we need more. I want to see real hunger – I want to see players trying to impress me and impress the fans. They should be desperate to start against Merstham.”
The goalkeeper question remains unanswered. They have looked at Pompey youngster Alex Bass and Horndean stopper Lyle Beasley but are keeping their options open as to who will be their No1 for the season.
And striker Ollie Pearce’s future remains unclear. He has had trials at Torquay and Bournemouth and Howell said he hoped to finalise things by the end of this week.
Teenage striker Rutherford, currently with Moneyfields, is one of a number of youngsters being given game time in pre-season who the Rocks may work into their first-team squad. But Howell is anxious not to bring young players into his plans who will play less than if they stayed with their other teams.
Meanwhile Howell said he was pleased to appoint Prior as captain although had gone out of his way to reassure Robson, last season’s skipper, the decision was no slight on him.
“Craig’s been excellent as captain but I think he can give us just as much without having the armband. Jason’s older and more experienced and I feel having trhe captaincy will do him go. Craig was very mature in his response when I told, saying he was happy to go with what’s best for the team.”
Bognor are next in friendly action next Monday at Worthing. They visit Havant on Wednesday.
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