Rocks Review: Rivals warned over bids for Nyewood Lane stars

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The Rocks’ fine form in the Ryman premier is alerting other clubs to the talents in the team - but rivals are being told they won’t find any bargains.

Top players at Nyewood Lane have been put on contracts over the past year or so, which means clubs wanting to snap up any of their star men will have to pay a fair rate.

There’s talk of interest from Conference South outfit Eastleigh in top-scoring midfielder James Crane, but he is one of a number of Rocks tied to the club, so the ball will be in the club’s court if any bids come in.

Crane’s late double in Saturday’s 5-1 win over Bury Town took his tally for the season to ten and he has been one of the team’s most consistent performers for a couple of years now.

Manager Jamie Howell said it was flattering if performances and results were making other clubs take an interest in their players, but he was confident the club had protected itself against the possibility of league rivals or teams from higher divisions taking their best players from under their noses.

“When you’re doing well and suddenly a team can come in with a seven-day approach and take a player against your will, it’s galling,” he said.

“But we’re fortunate that we’ve done a lot of work to get players on contracts, which means deals will only be done if the terms suit us as a club.

“Many people have put in a lot of hard work behind the scenes over a long period producing good young players. If anyone wants to take them, they will pay for them.

“You hear things about other clubs watching certain players - it’s bound to happen, it’s part of football - but we wont worry too much about rumours. We’ll just get on with the season with the players we have.”

The win over Bury means the Rocks have not lost in the league since October 23 and they head to Kingstonian on Saturday unbeaten on the road in the Ryman and in fourth place, just four points behind leaders Margate.

But Howell said neither the management nor players would be getting excited at being in a lofty position at this stage of the season.

“Avoiding relegation was the aim of the start of the season and it still is the aim,” he said. “Of course you look at the table and how many points you have but you can move down as quickly as you can move up.

“We won’t get carried away by a good run of results any more than will get downbeat about a run of bad results if it comes along.

“Take this Saturday’s game at Kingstonian, for example. Some people might look at the table and think we’re favourites, but we know it will be a very difficult game.

“They’ve had an up-and-down season so far but there are signs of improvement. They were beating Whitehawk the other week when the floodlights failed, and we won’t under-estimate them.”

The Rocks’ recent form has co-incided with several players returning from injury. Saturday’s line-up saw starts for defensive rock Stuart Axten and first-choice strike pair Ashley-Paul Robinson and Terry Dodd.

Skipper Ben Andrews has started training again after knee problems but is probably a couple of weeks from a return.

Steve Harper’s hamstring is playing up, while Harvey Whyte has a thigh injury that will probably keep him out this weekend. Young midfielder Dan Kempson is fit again.

The recent performances of the midfield men - including Lewis Stockford, whose fine goal against Bury highlighted how he is improving with every game - are making it hard for Dan Beck to get back in the side.

But Howell said: “He always knew he wouldn’t walk straight back into the team. He is still in his pre-season fitness-wise but he is fantastic to have around the place again.”

The Rocks have signed 18-year-old Eastbourne Borough full-back/wingback Jack MacFarlane.

Meanwhile, next Tuesday’s scheduled home league clash with Hampton & Richmond has been put back to the new year because the Beavers have cup commitments.