Rocks Review: Belief is the key to Ryman premier adventure

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Jamie Howell sends the Rocks into their Ryman premier adventure telling the players: I believe you can do it at this level – you need to believe it too.

The joint boss believes the Nyewood Lane squad will be able to hold their own in the premier division after two successful seasons in Ryman one south. But he says players who have not performed at this level before may have worries over how they will cope.

They head to Essex to play Concord Rangers for their league opener - the first of four games in ten days that will make up a hectic start for the Rocks. The first home game sees old Ryman one south rivals Met Police head to Bognor next Tuesday.

The club have boosted their attacking options by signing ex-Leatherhead forward Mu Mann from Met Police. His arrival is timely for striker Terry Dodd is suffering with shin splints and could miss a few games.

The Rocks also hope to do a deal for 19-year-old ex-Pompey midfielder Lewis Stockford, while utility man Ben Andrews is the club’s new captain.

They are still on the hunt for other reinforcements but are happy with the strength of the team that will go into battle this weekend.

Last time the Rocks tackled the Ryman premier it was in 2009-10 after relegation from Conference South – and it ended in a second straight demotion. But after two years of rebuilding in division one south, the management feel they are much better equipped to compete at this level.

Howell said: “We ideally need one or two more players but with our strongest XI out there, we should do okay.

“It’ll be a very interesting season. For two years in division one south we’ve played well and won a lot of games. Now we have to carry that momentum forward into this higher league.

“I’ve been around the leagues and know this level, and I have the confidence we can perform. But among some of the players who haven’t played at premier level, maybe some of our younger players, I think there could be some apprehension about it. I’m telling them to have that self-belief. They may be surprised.”

Howell said the first target of the season was not to get relegated, but as the campaign wore on, it might be that higher aims could be in reach.

In fact some think next Tuesday’s visitors provide a blueprint the Rocks would do well to copy. The Met were promoted as Ryman one south champions in 2011 and more than held their own last season – even threatening the play-off places at one stage.

Joint Rocks boss Darin Killpartrick said he was excited about the start of the league but warned to be patient in their dreams of seeing the team win and score plenty of goals.

“Only time will tell how we’ll fare,” he said. “It’s important for the fans that we get a good start to the season but this is a harder league than we’ve been in for the past two years and the supporters have to accept that.

“Games won’t be as open as many were in division one south – teams will be more resilient, harder to break down. I’m sure our fans will appreciate that and get behind us.

“We certainly aim to approach games in our normal way and play the only way we know.”

There are one or two injury worries for the bosses in addition to Dodd’s shin problems.

Another striker, Ashley Robinson, is due to have fluid drained from his knee today after sitting out last Friday’s 2-2 friendly draw at home to Worthing.

Howell said he was hopeful Robinson would be fit for Saturday.

Left-back Darryl Wollers has a tight groin but is another who should be okay for the trip to Essex.

Midfielder Dan Beck is unavailable for now but striker Omar Foulkes continues to impress.

Get Rocks news first this season at www.bognor.co.uk and from @stevebone1 on Twitter.