Rocks head for break in high spirits

Ollie Pearce celebrates opening the scoring against Tonbridge / Picture by Tim Hale
Ollie Pearce celebrates opening the scoring against Tonbridge / Picture by Tim Hale

The Rocks head into a weekend off declaring themselves delighted with their points haul from the opening ten games of the Ryman premier season.

A fine 2-0 win over Tonbridge on Saturday was followed by a 1-1 draw at home to Burgess Hill on Tuesday night – giving the Rocks seven points from nine in just over a week and leaving them sitting pretty in fourth spot.

If you include the Kingstonian game last Monday, we’ve played three very good teams and taken seven points from nine, which I think most managers would be happy with.

Jamie Howell

Although there was frustration they couldn’t beat the dogged Hillians, that was offset by the fact the point came on a night when defender Gary Charman had to play in goal and the Rocks trailed 1-0 with only five minutes left.

Charman was handed the gloves after the Rocks’ only recognised keeper, Billy Granger, called in sick just 90 minutes before kick-off - and boss Jamie Howell said he’d have no qualms giving Charman the goalie’s job again rather than take up a spot in the squad with a second goalie who’d hardly ever play.

Howell is happy with a haul of 18 points from those first ten games - saying he’d certainly have taken that if offered before the season began.

Saturday’s success over Tonbirdge - who came to Nyewood Lane unbeaten - was one of their best displays of the season so far, with goals from Ollie Pearce and Jimmy Wild securing the points. Against Burgess Hill, it was a Dylan Barnett free-kick that saved the night.

Howell said: “If you include the Kingstonian game last Monday, we’ve played three very good teams and taken seven points from nine, which I think most managers would be happy with.

“We were excellent on Saturday, it was really pleasing. In the end we possibly could have won by more than two. We took our chances when we needed to and defended well too.

“On Tuesday night we did okay and I think should have won it. Burgess Hill had a good first 20 minutes but we’d had the greater number of chances by the end.”

Howell praised his stand-in keeper Charman, saying he’d play him there again if he had to.

“People may question why you’ve only got one goalkeeper in the squad, but if we had a second one, they’d hardly ever play and want to go somewhere else. So what do you do when your goalkeeper can’t play?

“In the past we’ve dual-signed other keepers but that doesn’t work with 90 minutes’ notice. You can put a youth-team keeper in and risk them freezing. Or you can put someone like Gary in who’s been there and done it all and ask him to play as a sweeper-keeper.”

The Rocks have no game this Saturday after their early FA Cup exit and are next in action at Dulwich Hamlet on Saturday week.

That will give players struggling with niggly injuries the chance to get fit and by the trip to Champion Hill comes around, Howell hopes midfield duo Dan Beck and Doug Tuck will be over calf and groin problems that have kept them sidelined.

Pompey youngster Calvin Davies, back on loan for a second time at Bognor, is getting fitter all the time after six months out with a broken metatarsal and will soon be ready for a full game. He is due to play for Pompey’s under-23s against Norwich today.

Meanwhile young Brighton striker Thomas Byrne is getting over a hip problem and will soon be pushing for a start – though with ex-Chichester City striker Wild finding his goalscoring form, competition up front is fierce.

The Rocks remain in the hunt for one or two additions to the squad and dialogue with Pompey over a second of their academy players joining on loan - though Howell said reports that young keeper Alex Bass was Bognor-bound were wide of the mark.

STEVE BONE

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