Rocks fans have been urged to be patient while their team develops – and not see every dropped point or below-par display as a backward step.
The side returned to winning ways with a 2-1 home victory over Carshalton on Saturday, but some supporters criticised the performance – with one or two calling it ‘shocking’ and ‘worrying’.
Nevertheless it put the Rocks back up to sixth place in the Ryman premier table.
The win sets up the team for a tough and intensive run of games starting with a visit to play fifth-placed Wealdstone this weekend.
Manager Jamie Howell admitted it wasn’t a vintage performance from the Rocks but said he wouldn’t be losing any sleep over that.
“People are entitled to their opinion, of course, but they have to be realistic about what a club of our resources can do,” he said.
“The big positive for me is the way we have continued to pick up points, and the way we have played most weeks over the season, despite being short on players.
“People say ‘we need this’ and ‘we need that’. We’re fully aware of what we need, but getting it isn’t easy.
“A little while ago, for example, we tried to sign a centre-forward from Bromley.
“We agreed terms with the club and thought we had him, but then he didn’t want to come and he went and signed for Whitehawk.
“We’re still looking for another striker but we’re not really near anything coming off. Again, we know the type of player we need but it has to be right for the club. We’re not going to break the bank.”
Inevitably, with the Rocks hovering on the fringes of the top five, some are dreaming of a place in the play-offs. Howell said while he wouldn’t turn down such an opportunity, he wanted the rest of this season to be pressure-free.
He added: “I’m delighted with the way the season’s gone but I won’t get too excited when we win a few games nor too disappointed when we lose a few. Barring a major catastrophe, we shouldn’t get relegated.
“I’m looking at our team, and how we’re bringing through players like Lewis Stockford, Doug Tuck and Dan Kempson, and I’d love them to have three months of playing without pressure.
“That time can used moulding the team into one who can really challenge next season. Dabba and I have to work them on the training ground, in the dressing room and on the pitch, and it doesn’t happen overnight.
“The vast majority of fans are perfectly fair. All we are asking for is patience and an understanding of how we are building not just for next week but for next year and beyond.”
The visit to Grosvenor Vale to face Wealdstone on Saturday will be a stiff test of the Rocks’ progress. Howell rates Wealdstone – who won 1-0 at Nyewood Lane in October – as one of three sides who could win the title, the others being Margate and Whitehawk.
After that the Rocks visit mid-table Cray on Tuesday.
Howell has paid tribute to the way Dan Beck has worked his way back into the team following an absence from the game over the first third of this season.
He wasn’t an automatic choice when he returned but is now playing every week – and proved his versatility on Saturday by filling in for the injured Jon Marzetti at right-back and slamming in the opening goal.
Howell said: “His attitude is first-class and as last season’s captain, he commands respect in the dressing room. His experience is crucial to us and he weighs in with goals.”
Beck may be asked take on full-back duties again this week.
Marzetti is still recovering from the nasty leg gash sustained against Whitehawk.
Skipper Ben Andrews missed the Carshalton win with an eye abcess and his defensive partner Stuart Axten has a slight calf strain, but the Rocks hope both will be okay for Saturday.
Forward Steve Harper’s new job as a personal trainer includes weekend commitments but the Rocks hope he will return at some point.
Get the first report of the Rocks’ visits to Wealdstone and Cray on Saturday and Tuesday on this website