Bognor’s players have been told to cut out silly mistakes – or face a season in which they achieve nothing.
A couple more defensive lapses cost them the chance of victory in their Bostik premier visit to Leatherhead on Saturday, when – for the third match in a row – they needed a late, late goal to claim a draw.
It was another game when they were the better side for much of the 90 minutes – but coach Robbie Blake said it was pointless controlling games if you were going to give away soft goals.
Blake and manager Jack Pearce will be looking for a tighter defensive showing in the FA Trophy second qualifying round trip to Walton Casuals on Saturday and a home league tussle with Corinthian Casuals next Tuesday.
There’s £4,000 prize money up for grabs for winers at Walton – and then a chance to get back into the league’s top five on Tuesday.
Bognor were left without a midweek game this week when SCFL division-one side Seaford gave them less than 24 hours’ notice they could not field a team for the planned Sussex Senior Cup tie at Nyewood Lane. Seaford were promptly thrown out of the competition with the Rocks put into the third round.
Blake had mixed feelings after the 2-2 draw at Leatherhead, earned through equalisers by Tommy Scutt and Brad Lethbridge – the second another goal-of-the-contender from the 18-year-old Pompey loanee.
Blake said: “It was disappointing not to win the game – we should be winning these games. But you can’t argue that the lads keep going til the end.
“We keep giving away silly goals and at any level if you keep doing that it’s difficult to win games. We’ve got to cut out these mistakes if we want to achieve something this season. We know the firepower we have up front but we have to cut out the mistakes.
“They were two poor goals (conceded). If you’re going to keep conceding goals like we are conceding, it’s going to be an uphill task to win games.
“They’re individual errors but we ask the lads to try to play football and in those situations it’s about making the right decisions. If someone makes a wrong decision, we get punished for it.
“Was it (the team’s performance) below par? Probably. Was it good enough? Probably not. But we did go right to the end and saw a very good finish from Brad.
“We completely took over the game but we made a mistake and it cost us. We created chances. Brad had a header just past the post and he had one back across from Jimmy Wild. He’s had another half a chance, Harvey Whyte’s had half a chance and Mason Walsh has had half a chance and then Brad’s scored that great goal.
“We’ve had a lot of games for a squad we can’t really change much because of the injuries, and they deserve credit for keeping on going.
“We didn’t shy away from it. We kept probing and kept probing and got a draw from it. But the bottom line is we have to cut out the mistakes. At 1-1 there was only one team who was going to win that game.”
Blake praised Lethbridge for his latest fine finish, and predicted the simpler goals that had been eluding the teenager would come.
“He frustrates the life out of me because he has so much ability and I am keeping on to him to do the right things and keep composed. But at the minute he’s scoring the harder goals. That will turn and he will score goals,” said former Premier League striker Blake.
The coach said it was not ideal having to play midfielder Tommy Block in the centre of defence in an injury crisis that has robbed the team of the services of centre-halves Keaton Wood (ankle), Corey Heath (ankle) and Joe Dandy (knee), none of whom yet have a date for their return to full fitness.
“Unfortunately with the injuries we have he has to play there at the moment,” Blake added.
He said the Rocks would love to bring more players into the squad but warned: “We don’t want to bring bodies in for the sake of it – we have to know they are ones we could use if we reshuffle things a little.”
Manager Jack Pearce echoed Blake’s sentiments in saying the Leatherhead game was one Bognor would have won without errors at the back.
“When you dominate a team but don’t score, then they score without having to work hard for the goal, it deflates you and lifts the opposition, and it’s happened too often this season," Pearce said.
“But we can take great heart from the way we are playing and are refusing to be beaten. We’re scoring some great goals – I’ve never seen so many worldies – but the injury situation is hampering us and it’s not easy getting in players who can help us.
“It’s especially hard getting clubs to part with centre-halves and centre-forwards, the two areas where we’re short. But we’ll keep trying.”
Pompey loanee striker Dan Smith is another whose return to the team is not thought to be imminent. Pearce said: “We never seem to pick up straightforward injuries, only ones that take weeks to clear.”
Saturday’s Trophy tie at Walton has forced the Rocks’ home league game against Enfield to be postponed. That will now be played on Tuesday, December 4.