BOGNOR head into Wednesday night’s Ryman premier play-off semi-final against Lowestoft with manager Jamie Howell telling them to treat it like another league match.
The Rocks have ended the regular league season with the best home record in the division – and that includes a 4-1 win over tonight’s Suffolk visitors back in January.
Howell admits the play-offs are a lottery in which teams can play well and lose as much as they can perform badly and win. But he wants his players to remember how well they have done at Nyewood Lane throughout the campaign.
It’s Bognor’s third venture into play-off territory in four seasons. They came up from Ryman one south by this route in 2012, beating Godalming on penalties after a 4-4 draw in a Nyewood Lane classic then defeating Dulwich 1-0 in the final. That was a year after they lost 3-1 at home to Dulwich in the play-off semi-finals.
Howell said: “Anything can happen in play-offs, as we’ve seen ourselves in recent years. We have to play the opponents in front of us, not the occasion.
“There were times when it looked like we wouldn’t finish in the top five, so to end in third place and get a home semi-final is fantastic.
“We hope to pull a big crowd in and aim to perform as we have been doing at home for most of the season.”
The Rocks won 16 of their 23 home games during the season, scoring 59 goals – the best record in the division.
But in losing 4-2 at East Thurrock on Saturday, they showed understandable signs of tiredness.
Howell said: “We’d won a Sussex Senior Cup semi-final less than 48 hours before Saturday’s game and it showed as the match went on.
“But since then the players have been recovering and should be nicely refreshed.”
On-loan Sammy Igoe is unlikely to be risked after a hamstring problem but wide duo Ben Johnson and Arron Hopkinson are both set to be involved.
There have been minor injury worries over defenders Dan Sackman, James Crane and Paul Hinshelwood but all should be okay.
Keeper Grant Smith is fine after being winded at East Thurrock. Striker Dan Thompson sits out the second game of a three-match ban, leaving Ollie Pearce and Terry Dodd to partner one another up front.
Follow @stevebone1 on Twitter for live updates from the semi-final, followed by a full report on this website at full-time