THE ROCKS return to FA Cup action on Saturday, buoyed up by a week which has extended their unbeaten run and seen them break into the Ryman premier’s top four.
A fine 2-0 win away to leaders Grays on Saturday was followed by an entertaining goalless draw against another in-form team, Kingstonian, on Tuesday night.
I think we need to be at our very best and need them to have a bit of an off-day.
The four points lifted the Rocks into fourth place and they’re just two points off top spot.
And the results and performances put them in good heart for this weekend’s home FA Cup second qualifying round tie against Lowestoft.
It will be a tough test against a team who gained promotion from the Ryman premier in 2014 and who now ply their trade in the National League North.
Lowestoft won at Nyewood Lane in a play-off semi-final on their way to promotion – although had been hammered 4-1 at Nyewood Lane in the same league season.
Rocks’ manager Jamie Howell believes his team will need to be at their best to overcome the Suffolk side and hope the visitors have a bit of an off-day too.
But he says recent results have shown that his players can compete with very good non-league teams and they can go into the tie in confident mood.
There’s £4,500 waiting for teams who win in this round – and with just two more qualifying rounds to come before Football League clubs enter for the first round proper, the incentives are obvious.
Howell goes into the tie with few injury worries and happy to see his team churning out some excellent results in the league.
He said: “I was absolutely delighted with the win at Grays.
“The pitch was poor but that didn’t help them. And I think we’re better away from home than at home at the moment.
“We’ve set up the midfield differently in the past couple of games and using Craig Robson, Dan Beck and Snorre Nilsen in there. It’s worked really well.”
The point against old rivals Kingstonian – themselves on a decent run – also pleased Howell. “I think it was a fair result, although we finished the stronger of the teams,” he said.
“We knew what sort of game they’d give us and it’s another game unbeaten for us – that’s five wins and two draws in the past seven.”
Howell is looking forward to another FA Cup day at the Lane.
“Lowestoft are a good team and it will be very tough,” he added. “I think we need to be at our very best and need them to have a bit of an off-day.
“But we’re at home, it’s the FA Cup and our fans will be up for it, so who knows?”
Injury problems are gradually clearing up for the squad, but there are one or likely absentees for the tie.
Midfielder Doug Tuck is likely to train for the first time tonight after a hamstring problem, but is unlikely to go straight into the side on Saturday even if he does fare well in the session.
Forward Stuart Green is having back problems which need further investigation before he can be pitched back in.
Full-back James Crane is set to be fit after missing the Kingstonian game with a jarred knee picked up against Grays.
The Rocks solved a knee problem with a Knee solution – bringing back left-back Mark Knee to face the Ks in Crane’s absence.
The former Rocks defender has signed on dual-registration forms from Southern Combination premier side Horsham.
Howell praised Horsham for helping Bognor in their time of need.
Daryl Wollers has a bruised foot but should also be fit for Saturday, while young Pompey duo Nilsen and Chad Field should again feature.
Howell said: “We’re delighted with Chad and Snorre’s progress. They’re improving game by game and are really looking the part.”
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