Rocks striker’s departure can open door for duo

Ollie Pearce is set for more minutes up front / Picture by Tim Hale

Ollie Pearce is set for more minutes up front / Picture by Tim Hale

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YOUNG strikers Ollie Pearce and Alfie Rutherford will get their chance to shine at Nyewood Lane as the Rocks prepare to part company with Chike Kandi.

The Brighton striker will return to the Amex after his two-month stay at Bognor ends with this Saturday’s home Ryman League clash with Needham Market.

But instead of looking immediately for another striker to borrow, manager Jamie Howell is keen to give Pearce and Rutherford the chance to show their goalscoring talents on a more regular basis.

Both have had limited starts up front since 20-year-old Kandi arrived in November to partner Jason Prior.

But with the Rocks now facing a minimum of 24 games in 106 days – a number that will rise with a further FA Trophy or Sussex Senior Cup progress – the duo, along with every other member of the squad, are unlikely to be short of minutes on the pitch.

The Rocks have signed Chichester forward Jimmy Wild on dual-registration forms. But the 18-year-old, who has scored 23 goals in 25 matches for City, will join the Rocks only on days that suit both clubs.

We have Ollie and Alfie, who have had to be patient and wait for their chance, and it will be nice to be able to give them more game time.

Fixture congestion was already mounting for the Rocks after prolonged stays in the FA Cup and FA Trophy.

Now the rain that has hit much of the country has made things worse by washing out last Saturday’s league visit to Burgess Hill and Tuesday’s Sussex Senior Cup tie away to Eastbourne Town.

The cup tie has now been switched to Nyewood Lane and will be played, weather permitting, next Tuesday.

Howell said the fixture list was daunting but they had to accept their lot.

The club will be sorry to see Kandi return to Brighton after an 11-game spell which brought five goals.

But Howell said: “The loan was never likely to last any longer. In fact, we were pleased to keep Chike for a second month on top of the initial one.

“At this stage I don’t plan to try to get in another striker on loan.

“We have Ollie and Alfie, who have had to be patient and wait for their chance, and it will be nice to be able to give them more game time.

“I feel sorry for Ollie, really. He played a lot of games for us last season and scored 18 goals. But this season he has not played as much, and at times he has been asked to play wide right when Alex Parsons has been out.

“What’s difficult with players like Ollie and Alfie is that you don’t want to over-play them, but you don’t want to under-use them either.

“They’re players who are important in the club’s long-term future.

“Both have shown they can score goals at this level and I think fans will be pleased to see more of them.”

One of the pair is set to partner Kandi on Saturday with Prior set to serve the one-match ban picked up for his red card at Hampton.

Otherwise, the lack of recent action has at least left Howell with something like a full squad of fit players.

Sami El-Abd and Gary Charman trained well on Tuesday night after recent injury problems and Snorre Nilsen is close to a return to first-team action after a hip flexor injury.

Defender Daryl Wollers, who has been playing for Pagham on a dual-registration basis, faces a couple of weeks out after coming off in the Lions’ defeat to Arundel with a hamstring problem.

The Rocks have slipped to tenth in the table but they are just six points off third place.

Howell expects Needham Market to provide a stiffer test than their league position – 20th – suggests.

“They won at Dulwich Hamlet, the leaders, and that tells you all you need to know,” said the manager.

“Anyone can beat anyone in this league but if we play as we did against Lewes on Boxing Day, we have every chance.”

STEVE BONE

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