Rocks hit the ground running - but keeper search is on

Grant Smith - pictured with Jason Prior after sustaining a head injury at Grimsby - has left the Rocks / Picture by Tim Hale
Grant Smith - pictured with Jason Prior after sustaining a head injury at Grimsby - has left the Rocks / Picture by Tim Hale
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The Rocks have hit the ground running – literally – as they get into the swing of a pre-season build-up they hope will get them ready for a new assault on league and cup success.

Coach Darin Killpartrick said the first few summer sessions –which began last Friday – had shown the squad had remained fit during the break and were hungry to get stuck into the new campaign.

It’s been very good so far. The players seem to have come back in good shape and we have doing BMI and fat-testing this week.

Darin Killpartrick

The start of their get-togethers has been overshadowed by the loss of another squad member, with goalkeeper Grant Smith having decided not to extend his stay at Nyewood.

He is now set to join National League premier-division side Boreham Wood – making him the second of last season’s team after defender Craig Robson, now at Dagenham and Redbridge, to jump up two divisions after a successful season in green and white.

Killpartrick – who has just been voted most inspirational teacher of the year at Chichester College – is delighted with the way pre-season has started.

He said: “It’s been very good so far. The players seem to have come back in good shape and we have doing BMI and fat-testing this week.

“We’ve been doing ball work as well as fitness work. Even this early in the programme all my sessions are based on resembling games.

“We’ve a nice mixture of last season’s squad and some new faces and the facilities at East Dean, where we are training, are excellent as ever.”

Smith’s move, meanwhile, is another blow for the Rocks after they bid farewell to Craig Robson, Jason Prior, Alfie Rutherford and Stu Green - but boss Jamie Howell remains calm over the way the reshaping of the squad is going.

Former Brighton youth stopper Smith, an ever-present, was one of the stars of last season, excelling in many league games and in the run to the FA Trophy semi-finals after rejoining the club for a second spell as a Rock a year ago.

He lifted the fans’ player of the year title at the supporters’ club’s end-of-season presentation.

But he is based near Reading and wanted to move to a club closer to home for the 2016-17 campaign – while the fact a club from the top tier of non-league have come in for him must be an added bonus..

Howell said he was sorry to see Smith move on. “He’s been exploring other options so it’s not a big surprise, but we are disappointed to lose Grant. He’s been excellent for us.

“Travelling was a problem for him at times and that’s been one of the factors that’s led to him moving.

“We have a couple of other options in terms of keepers and the position will be sorted. It’s in hand.”

The Rocks will have three training sessions a week until friendlies begin with a visit to Chichester City on Monday, July 18.

They have added midfield duo James Fraser and Darren Budd to the squad plus former Seagulls striker Jimmy Muitt, and will also be running the rule over youngsters including Jimmy Wild and Jamie Horncastle.

Howell said: “Not everyone is back for pre-season yet and of course we are still looking at further additions to the squad. I’m happy with the way it is going so far.

“The first priority with training to is get fitness levels up but at this level of football players know they need to look after themselves in the break, so we’re not looking at anyone coming back a couple of stone overweight.”

They’ll discover later today who theiir early-round FA Cup and FA Trophy opponents will be, while the Ryman premier fixtures are due out on July 15.

STEVE BONE

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