Why FA Cup is more important than ever to Bognor

Bognor on the attack against Kingstonian / Picture by Tommy McMillan
Bognor on the attack against Kingstonian / Picture by Tommy McMillan

The Rocks aim to take their bright league start into the FA Cup on Saturday – and set off on a money-spinning run to the first round.

After beginning their Bostik premier campaign with three wins and three draws, Bognor know a decent Cup run will boost the feelgood factor at Nyewood Lane and earn them even more revenue than past successes in the famous old competition.

Jack Pearce and Robbie Blake take the Rocks to Kent to face Whistable in a first qualifying round tie, from which the winners will net £6,000.

If Bognor could get through all four qualifying rounds, total prize money would be £55,000 – and set up a potential tie against a League One or League Two club.

It’s 23 seasons since Bognor reached the first round proper although they were one win away from it in 2015-16 only to lose at Wealdstone.

Manager Jack Pearce said the FA had almost doubled prize money this year and the Rocks wanted a run.

“If a non-league club can get to the first round proper it can make a huge difference to your finances and your profile in the game. That would be the aim but it’s a long way off,” he said.

“We just need to concentrate on Whitstable first. They’re a division below us in the Bostik League but have just beaten Ashford, who were previously unbeaten, so are clearly a good side. We won’t be able to be below our best.”

The Rocks may have to begin their Cup campaign without top scorer Dan Smith, whose two goals last weekend, plus another from his fellow Pompey loanee Brad Lethbridge, earned a 3-1 home league win over Kingstonian, extending the Rocks’ 100 per cent home record.

Smith is being monitored by Pompey, who have used the 19-year-old forward in a midweek match for the second week running, and the Rocks expect the Fratton Park club not to give permission for him to play in the FA Cup. Lethbridge has been given clearance to feature.

Pearce is philosophical about the times Smith may be wanted by Pompey.

Smith and Lethbridge do it again for Rocks

“Last week he was told by Pompey on the Saturday night to inform us he was to play in a game for them on the Tuesday so could not play for us on bank holiday Monday, and he did tell Robbie Blake.

“Kenny Jackett (Pompey manager) contacted me later in the week and explained that he wants to keep looking at Dan and there would be times when he wanted to call him back. That’s perfectly reasonable and we have to accept it.

Pearce - We have room to improve

“We are delighted to have the two lads from Pompey and they are certainly proving their worth so far. They’re scoring goals and when you’re doing that it lifts the whole team and the whole club. It’s what we weren’t doing last season.”

Pearce feels Jimmy Muitt, although not scoring as regularly as Smith and Lethbridge, is also playing his part in the team’s attacking threat and said he was delighted with the haul of 12 points from the first six league games.

Injury worries have hung over two centre-halves in the past week.

Corey Heath has a sore ankle bone – not the same injury that kept him out for almost all last season – and is likely to miss the Whitstable game.
Keaton Wood has missed the past two games with a hamstring problem but trained well on Tuesday night and should be fit to face the Bostik south east team.

Pearce and Blake have no other new injury worries and there is not thought to be any worries over keeper Dan Lincoln missing games through cricket duties.

He was unavailable for the recent trip to Lewes and Pearce praised stopper Kieran Magee – who is dual registered with Bognor after making his name with Bosham – for the way he stepped into the breach.

If Saturday’s tie in Kent ends all square, the replay will be at Nyewood Lane on Wednesday (7.45pm).
Pearce felt the Rocks were worth the three points against Kingstonian, although it took until the dying stages for them to make sure of the win with their third goal.

“I thought we were the better team on the day – the right team won. But we needed a worldy and a late goal to win it, and Kingstonian missed a good chance to equalise when it was 2-1.

“At whatever level you are playing at, if you have forwards who can put the ball in the net, it makes a big difference.”