From a drought to a glut - now Bognor must keep scoring

Brad Lethbridge gets Wingate on the back foot in the Rocks' win / Picture by Tommy McMillan
Brad Lethbridge gets Wingate on the back foot in the Rocks' win / Picture by Tommy McMillan

The Rocks’ bosses saluted their players for overcoming their goal drought – and challenged them to keep on scoring in a hectic run of league and cup games coming up.

Four different players scored in the 4-2 home win over Wingate and Finchley that lifted Bognor up to fourth in the Bostik premier.

It came after a succession of games in which Rocks players had missed a stream of sitters and ended up losing or drawing.

Manager Jack Pearce and coach Robbie Blake now want their players to carry on keeping their cool in front of goal as they gear up for a Sussex Senior Cup tie on Saturday which is followed by a run of ten league games in 43 days throughout December and early January, six of which are away from home.

Dan Smith, Jimmy Muitt, Mason Walsh and Tommy Scutt were on target as the Rocks came from 1-0 and 2-1 down to beat Wingate. They have no league game this Saturday but are in Senior Cup third-round action at home to Three Bridges.

Pearce said: “I was delighted by the win but there is no logic to how you can have games where you play well and don’t score, then a game where you don’t play as well and score four. I thought our first-half performance against Corinthian Casuals (in a 1-0 home defeat last week) was far better than anything we produced on Saturday.

“It was a relief to get the win, though when we missed an early one-on-one then conceded we thought ‘here we go again’.

“The most pleasing thing was the psychology – to concede, then come back to 1-1 and dominate and then go behind again is difficult. Players might have thought the Gods were against them. But they kept going.”

Coach Blake said: “It was very pleasing. However we got it, we wanted to get that win which we’ve been craving for a few weeks. We showed tremendous commitment and courage and to come back from 1-0 and 2-1 down shows we’ve got a lot of character in the team. We asked for a response at half-time out of one or two and we got it. We’ve very pleased with the result and the performance.”

Pearce praised the role played skipper Harvey Whyte, who shone in an unfamiliar holding midfield role. And Blake picked out Smith’s return as key to their attacking power and also praised the other scorers.

“Having Smudger (Smith) back for this game gave us a big lift and for him to get a goal was great,” Blake said. “It was nice to see Scutty get a goal and Jimmy Muitt too – he’s a confidence player and because we haven’t been playing particularly well over the past couple of weeks it was nice for him to get that goal.

“Mason deserved his goal on his second-half performance. He was outstanding, certainly in the second half. We had a chat with him at half-time and asked him to give us a response. A couple of times in the first half he got in really good positions and disappointed us but he was outstanding and it goes to show what a great lad he is.

“With injuries and suspensions, we asked Harvey to do a disciplined holding midfield role and I thought he did it very well.”

Blake said the whole team performed to see off a Wingate team who had picked up a couple of good results before their visit to Nyewood Lane.

He said Pompey had wanted the Rocks to play Smith for only a minimal time as he came back from a hip injury, and they were happy to respect that. The forward came off just before the break.

Blake added: “I’m pretty sure Dan will feel better for that. When someone’s been out for eight or nine weeks you can’t just throw them in the pressure cooker. Once their muscles start to get tired, there’s a chance you can get fatigue and pull something.”

Walsh has now picked up five bookings but two of them were in the FA Trophy and new FA rules means the toting-up process only applies to individual competitions, so he is not yet due a ban.

Nye Camp atmosphere boost - plus Rocks-Wingate match highlights
How Bognor beat Wingate
Blake said the squad’s other Pompey loanee Brad Lethbridge again performed well, despite missing a couple of first-half chances. “His work-rate and ability is invaluable to us and it’s no coincidence that when we get a couple of players back, we win.”

As has been widely reported, young midfielder Tommy Block has secured a week’s trial with Scottish Premiership team Hibernian. Blake said that was a positive not only for the player but for the club too. “He’s been doing really well, he’s been listening, he’s been professional and I wish him the best of luck. Everyone wants to play league football - every footballer wants to play as high as they can,” said Blake

“It’s really important that he goes up there and expresses himself and enjoys it. We’ve had Brad Lethbridge and Smudger involved in the first team at Portsmouth and it all goes to show we are doing things right and there is progression at the football club. Blocky is a versatile player who has a good understanding of the game. He’s been a credit.”

Blake said Saturday’s Senior Cup clash with Three Bridges would be a chance to play some fringe players. “It’s a chance to rest a couple of players and get a bit of freshness into them and use the squad a little bit, which I’m pretty sure they will be.”

Blake said the Rocks fans were ‘first class’ on Saturday and he massively appreciated the backing they had given this season, especially during spells when results were hard to come by.

The new cover at the Seasons end of the ground, unveiled on Saturday, was a great addition, he said. “It’s only going to benefit the supporters as well as Bognor Regis Town Football Club. We have a great little football club here and if we can keep adding bits along the way we’re in great shape.”

Pearce and Blake said efforts to bring in one or two more players were continuing. Pearce revealed the Rocks had made offers to five different defenders at National League level and agreed terms with clubs, but in each case the player did not want to come.