Rocks Review: Why this season will be that much tougher at Nyewood Lane

The Rocks begin a new bid for promotion to the Ryman Premier on Saturday warning fans: Don’t expect us to run away with it.

After last season’s title near-miss, they’re expecting this campaign to be much tougher – with many of the teams they beat last year now better-equipped to stifle their passing game.

The Rocks are also expecting a number of teams to have spent serious money in an attempt to secure promotion – although bosses Darin Killpartick and Jamie Howell still expect their team to be in the mix.

Their start looks like being hampered by injuries, with last year’s player of the season Tim Bond and stalwart striker Luke Nightingale the biggest doubts for the Nyewood Lane opener against Chipstead.

Killpartrick said: “This league is always going to be a big challenge and I think this season it will be even tougher for us.

“Everyone will be expecting us to do well and a lot of teams will be out to take us down a peg or two. There’ll be four of five decent teams – any from Maidstone, Whitehawk, Dulwich Hamlet or Folkestone could be very strong, and there’ll be others too.

“All we can do is adopt the approach that served us well last season, and that’s to treat every opponent the same, play to our strengths, believe in ourselves and see where it takes us.”

Howell added: “We’re expecting it to be that bit harder this time. Last season we started off with no-one really knowing how we’d fare and we gradaully settled into the promotion race.

“Much as it would be nice to get 96 points and 100-odd goals again, I don’t know if we will.

“Maidstone and Whitehawk have spent a lot of money with the aim of winning this league, but we feel if we can keep our squad fit, we can give anyone a game.

“Continuity is important to any football club and we’re lucky to be starting this season with much the same group of players as we ended last season with.”

Whitehawk are odds-on favorites to win division one south, with 4/5 quoted by some bookies, although the Rocks are 3/1 second favorites with some.

The Rocks have a squad presently totalling 19 for the season ahead. It includes youngsters Darryl Wollers, a versatile ex-Littlehampton defender, and teenage midfielder Jack Blatchford, who was with Woking.

Also back on the books are defender Chris Breach and utility man Lewis Ide, who have been working up to full fitness during the Rocks’ pre-season campaign, and winger Louie Castles.

The Rocks hope to have another winger added to the squad in time for Saturday.

ROCKS SQUAD (registered with Ryman League): Craig Stoner, James Crane. Daryl Wollers, Matt Whitehead, Duncan Jupp, Tim Bond, Stuart Axten, Chris Breach, Lewis Ide, James Fraser, Kane Wills, Michael Birmingham, Jon Marzetti, Jason Prior, Terry Dodd, Luke Nightingale, Dan Beck, Louie Castles, Jack Batchford.