Rocks win shows progress - but they’re not the finished product

Ollie Pearce gets Bognor moving forward against Canvey Island   Picture by Kate Shemilt C141045-7
Ollie Pearce gets Bognor moving forward against Canvey Island Picture by Kate Shemilt C141045-7

JAMIE HOWELL praised his players for seeing the job through to beat Canvey Island – but vowed to continue the hunt for additions who could improve the quality of the squad.

The Rocks moved up to eighth in the Ryman premier with Saturday’s 2-1 win but needed a late James Crane header to clinch three points from a game in which they’d had plenty of chances to win comfortably.

They now have a blank weekend, with opponents Leatherhead in FA Trophy action but will train, with Howell saying the team were not so well off for points and form they could afford an extra day off.

And it’s a tough week ahead of them, with a trip to Conference South side Whitehawk in the Sussex Senior Cup on Tuesday followed by a home game against surprise top-three outfit Hendon on Saturday week.

The Rocks have adapted reasonably well to life after Jason Prior. Since the fans’ favourite’s month on loan ended, they have put up a good fight away to leaders Margate and now beaten Canvey, their fourth win in their past six home games.

Howell would still like to recruit another striker in the Prior mould to give them greater physical presence in the penalty area, and is open to the idea of other new players – but only ones who can add something to the existing squad.

“I don’t want to bring players in who aren’t as committed as the players we have. It’s a good squad we have but it’s a little under-strength in some areas, partly because we have one or two out injured,” Howell said.

“Up front, for example, we have good variety with Ollie Pearce, Ashley-Paul Robinson, Stuey Green and Alex Parsons – but it would be nice to add a more physical player as well if we could.”

Saturday’s win showed there are players in form in all areas of the pitch, although a continuing concern is the number of chances that go begging.

Howell said: “When Canvey equalised, I turned to Dabba and asked what we needed to do to win a game. We’d had much the better of it but it looked like we were going to end up with a point and we’d have gone away feeling flat.

“But we showed good character and resilience after their equaliser to go on and win it. We should have had it sewn up earlier and we are still missing too many chances – that will cost us in some games if we don’t start being more clinical.”

Howell described Harvey Whyte as a ‘revelation’ since he had switched from the right side of midfield to right-back and heaped praise on central-defensive partners Craig Robson and Dan Sackman. He said everyone had played their part in the Canvey win.

“We’ve no game on Saturday but we’ll be in for training. We’re not in a position where we can give the players a day off,” said Howell.

“We’ve Whitehawk to play on Tuesday – not an ideal draw but a game we want to win to continue our good recent record in the senior cup – then Hendon next Saturday, when we’ll need to be at our best.”

Ben Johnson caused concern among fans when he suffered another knee injury in Saturday’s second half but Howell revealed it was not serious and he could even be back for the Hendon game.

Doug Tuck was a late withdrawal from Saturday’s team because of a tight groin. He and Charlie Oatway – who replaced Tuck but has a knee problem that will need surgery – will be monitored but should be fit for next week’s games.

Full-backs Paul Hinshelwood and Daryl Wollers are awaiting surgery on knee and hip injuries. Hinshelwood’s op is scheduled for January but he may play before then, while Wollers’ long-awaited date in theatre is December 11.


Get the first report from the Whitehawk v Rocks game next Tuesday on this website