THE ROCKS aim to keep their play-off bid on track on Saturday despite a chronic shortage of cover in goal and defence.
Bosses are working to replace young keeper Will Britt – who has hurt his back in training – and bring in an extra defender to boost their stretched resources.
Despite postponements which have blighted their start to 2014, leaving them with just three league games played this year to date, their injury problems have not cleared.
Britt’s back injury, picked up in training, is likely to keep him out for a couple of weeks and the Rocks had to borrow Chichester City stopper Anthony Ender for Tuesday’s Sussex Senior Cup tie with Eastbourne United, which they won 6-1.
They are exploring their options ahead of Saturday’s Thamesmead, although it is understood one possibility is a quick return to the line-up for Mark Zawadski, who was first-choice keeper this season until he was released following Britt’s arrival last month.
In defence, Stuart Axten’s ankle problem will keep him out until at least this time next week – leaving manager Jamie Howell with Dan Sackman and Craig Robson, thankfully now with his one-match ban out of the way, as his only available centre-halves.
Howell said: “It’s very frustrating because when you have games postponed, you expect injuries to clear up. But we seem to have ended up with even more.
“We’re working on the goalkeeper situation and looking at whether we might be able to bring in a defender.”
The problems don’t end there. Midfielder Harvey Whyte, recently back after three months out with a thigh injury, has rolled his ankle in training and is looking at another fortnight on the sidelines. And striker Ben Godfrey has suffered an arm injury at work.
Thankfully Howell and coach Darin Killpartrick’s midfield pool is larger – while the return of Dan Thompson for a second Nyewood Lane spell means they still have options up front.
Howell said: “We were pleased to get Dan back involved. He’s had spells at Hampton and Richmond and Hayes and Yeading since leaving us and gives us another style of player up front.”
The visit of Thamesmead offers the Rocks a chance to break back into the play-off zone, although Howell warned players and fans not to take the visitors lightly.
They’re 20th in the table but have added some new faces to the squad.
Howell said: “They beat Maidstone the other week, which is further proof anyone can beat anyone else in this league. But if we play as well as we can, we should be capable of a win.”
Howell was delighted by the romp over Eastbourne, which sets up a county cup quarter-final with Brighton on a date yet to be fixed.
He praised Kane Wills – whose two goals took his season’s tally to nine – and said it was nice to see another youth-team player, Dale Hayes, step up for his first-team debut.
And he was pleased to see Daryl Wollers back in action for the first time since late September. The full-back is waiting for a groin op but has been told he can play as long as he is not overworked.
Get the first report from Rocks v Thamesmead on this website