Rocks hope break in weather allows good form to resume

Harvey Whyte is in the squad to face East Thurrock  Picture by Tommy McMillan
Harvey Whyte is in the squad to face East Thurrock Picture by Tommy McMillan
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SPORTSMEN across the area are praying for an end to the downpours so they can get back to regular action - and no-one’s keener for their next test than the Rocks.

Jamie Howell’s side ended 2013 with back-to-back wins that left them nicely poised for a new-year play-off bid, but wet weather means they’ve not played since.

They lost last Saturday’s home clash with Lowestoft and Tuesday’s visit to Met Police to waterlogged pitches but are hopeful the Nyewood Lane surface, given a couple of drier days, will be fine for the home tussle with East Thurrock on Saturday.

They’re then due to play the rearranged Lowestoft game next Tuesday night - and in fact will play seven games in 22 days if the weather holds up.

The Rocks aren’t alone in being frustrated. In division one of the Sussex League, Pagham have not played since Boxing Day and Chichester had their match at Lancing abandoned after just 18 minutes on Saturday.

Rugby has been hit, too, with Bognor among sides left staring at unplayable pitches last weekend.

The forecast is better for the next couple of days and there are high hopes the fixture list can return to something like normal.

For the Rocks, that means trying to close in on a top-five place by beating East Thurrock - also known as the Rocks.

Howell said they’d managed to keep up their normal levels of training, making use the of the 3G surface at Bognor’s Arena Sports Centre.

He said: “After two postponements, I think the lads just want to get back to playing matches. If there’s a positive about it, it’s that one or two players have had a chance to get over niggly injuries.”

Midfielder Doug Tuck would have missed the Lowestoft and Met Police games but is a ‘possible’ for Saturday, and midfielder-winger Harvey Whyte is that bit closer to full fitness after a long-standing thigh problem and will be in the squad.

Winger Shep Murombedzi has returned to Reading after his month’s stay at the Lane, while right-back Paul Hinshelwood’s loan is also up - but the Rocks are hopeful of doing a deal with Gosport to get him back in the camp, perhaps permanently.

Centre-half Louis John’s loan from Crawley continues until mid-January.

Ben Johnson is due to see his consultant today to check on his knee damage. He should be fit to resume training soon but Howell warned against rushing him back before they could be sure the joint would stand up to the rigours of matches.

With 24 league games played and 22 to go, Bognor are the Ryman premier’s joint top scorers with 55 goals and sit just four points off the play-off zone.

Howell said the aim was to keep on playing well - as they had been doing - and seeing where it took them.

“We have two home games coming up and some may think that’s another six points, but you can’t add them to your tally before you’ve won them. Both games will be difficult and we can’t assume anything,” he said.

“We had a bad start to the season but have done well since and know we need to carry that on right until the end of the season.”

Howell would like to add three players to the squad - including a left-back and another striker - but said they weren’t likely to recruit anyone else before the next two games.

STEVE BONE

Get the first report from Rocks v East Thurrock on this website