Season still alive but the rocks look longer-term too

Stuart Green needed a fitness check ahead of Bognor's home clash with Harrow   Picture by Tommy McMillan
Stuart Green needed a fitness check ahead of Bognor's home clash with Harrow Picture by Tommy McMillan

JAMIE HOWELL has revealed he already has one eye on next season as he plots the long-term success of the club.

The Rocks are 12th in the Ryman premier and would need a superb end to the campaign to force their way into the play-offs for a chance of promotion to the Conference South.

But while they are certainly not giving up on that prospect, Howell is already thinking about who will form the nucleus of a 2015-16 team that he will expect to challenge for honours – and what sort of surgery he will need to do on the squad in the summer.

The long-term approach can also be seen off the pitch, with the Rocks management winning praise from fans for agreeing to let under-18s in free for the rest of this term and the whole of next season.

Howell said: “The play-offs are always in your mind when you’re where we are in the table, but I’d say the top four are unlikely to be caught, which leaves a lot of teams chasing one more place.

“If you string together a few wins you can start to think about it seriously – but I think most would say for us, a play-off place is unlikely this season.

“We’ll continue trying to win games, of course, but I’ve got half an eye on next season and what we need to do to make sure we compete strongly. We’re looking at who we need to get to commit to the club and things like that.

“We lost a lot of key players at the end of last season and it would be nice to think that won’t happen this time.”

The Rocks have slipped a place or two in the table in recent weeks despite being unbeaten in four games. That’s because three of those four have ended all-square – the latest a 0-0 draw at AFC Hornchurch last Saturday.

Harrow visit Nyewood Lane this weekend and although they are in the bottom four, basement side Bury’s 1-1 draw at the Lane a month ago was proof there are no walkovers in the division.

Howell said: “We’re in a pattern of tight games. We’re defending very well and shading games – and we are creating chances. But not too many of them are going in at the moment.

“I don’t think it’s much more than the rub of the green not going our way. We just have to keep playing the way we are and the goals will come.”

Coach Darin Killpartrick said they had intensified training levels with relatively few games played in the past few weeks, working hard of defensive shape and more effective use of spells of possession.

He said of the Harrow game: “Our mental application needs to be just right. We’ll treat it like we’re playing the team at the top, not a team near the bottom. At Hornchurch, it was a good point for us on a heavy pitch.”

The Rocks have extended defender Ryan Woodford’s loan from Havant and Waterlooville for another month. Woodford has impressed in his first month at Bognor.

Seventeen-year-old striker Callum Overton, who was on Brighton’s books until he was 16 and lives in Selsey, has signed on work-experience forms from AFC Wimbledon. He will continue to play for the Dons’ youth team while also making appearances for the Rocks.

Meanwhile, the kids-go-free scheme will remain in place until the final game of the current campaign. Next season, under-18s will be able to pick up a free season ticket provided they prove their age. It’s a move applauded by the supporters’ club, who pushed for the trial at a recent meet-the-management session.

STEVE BONE

Get first news of the Rocks v Harrow game at www.bognor.co.uk