The Rocks are hoping the signing of Ben Andrews will fill the on-pitch leader’s role left vacant by the retirement of Michael Birmingham.
The ex-Brighton, Horsham and Worthing utility player made an excellent debut in the 4-0 win over Eastbourne Town and looks set to become a fans’ favourite.
His ability to play at centre-half or up front and his battling qualities mark him out as exactly the type of player the Rocks will need to see them through a gruelling winter without Birmingham.
One incident on Saturday saw him take a ball full in the face then get straight up and carry on playing.
Joint managers Jamie Howell and Darin Killpartrick spoke of their joy at landing the 30-year-old.
Howell said: “I’ve been trying to sign him for years and I’m delighted we’ve got him.
“We’re not short at centre-half, his main position, but we’ve brought him in because he’s a leader. He’s been captain at most of his clubs and he knows his way around the leagues.”
Andrews, who played for Brighton’s first team aged 17 and has also been at Burgess Hill and Tonbridge Angels, started up front against Town but reverted to defence after Chris Breach was forced off with a gash near his eye which needed nine stitches.
Killpartrick said: “I’m elated we’ve signed Ben. He’s a very experienced player and is technically gifted with both feet.”
The Rocks have also welcomed defender Dan Sackman back to Nyewood Lane while he is home from the States, but he is seen as a squad player for now.
With the Rocks also having signed Steve Harper on loan from the Met Police and defender Callum Sheriff on work experience from Brighton, Howell said he didn’t expect any more arrivals unless anyone left.
“We’re back to having a good-sized squad now, and we’ll need it. You can’t get through a season with 14 or 15 players,” Howell added.
Andrews will have a big role to play as the fourth-placed Rocks continue a hectic schedule. They go to Merstham on Saturday then host Godalming, leaders Maidstone and Faversham in an eight-day period starting next Tuesday.
Andrews is likely to partner Stuart Axten in defence at Merstham with Tim Bond still being eased back after a hamstring tear and Breach a big doubt after his facial stitches.
The Rocks will be without Dan Beck at Merstham – he’s banned for one game following five bookings – while Lewis Ide needs attention to a knee problem.
Full-back Darryl Wollers should be fit to return.
The other good news for the Rocks is that goals keep coming. Saturday’s four took their league tally to 42 in 15 games, with top scorer Jason Prior again leading the way with two and having now scored nine in four games.
Killpartrick praised the frontman and said: “The most pleasing thing for me about Jason’s game is not his goals – we know he can score – but his work-rate off the ball. He’s improved that side of his game and it’s great to see.”