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Rocks Review: Moves afoot to end the goal drought

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The Rocks are working to bring in an extra striker to end the goal drought that’s threatening to derail their season.

It’s nearly 350 minutes since their last goal - apart from the four they scored in a penalty shootout in the league cup at Burgess Hill - and they are all too aware they need things to change quickly.

The cause should be helped by the gradual return to fitness of forward trio Steve Harper, Ashley Robinson and Terry Dodd. But manager Jamie Howell believes an extra signing is also needed.

Harper and Robinson, who are over hamstring and knee injuries respectively, came off the bench in Saturday’s 0-0 drw at home to Enfield. Harper started Tuesday’s 3-0 home loss to Harrow while Robinson again came on as a sub.

Both are gradually getting fitter and Dodd’s cast has come off following his broken toe - but he is still two to three weeks away from a return to the team.

Howell said: “I thought at the start of the season, even when all our forwards were fit, we needed one more striker. And that’s certainly the case now.

“It’s something we’re working on. We are looking around and making inquiries. It could be a loan or something permanent.”

The goal drought has come as a shock to the Nyewood Lane faithful after a couple of seasons in which the team have scored for fun.

The problem is particularly acute at home, where they’ve scored just once in SIX league games.

The fact that goal was scored by winger Ben Johnson, now out for the season, brings home how badly hit by injuries the squad have been.

Coach Darin Killpartrick said: “Any business which had lost up to 60 per cent of itd frontline workforce would struggle to operate and that’s what happened to us. It’s not an excuse - it’s a genuine factor.

“We must lift the players and tell them to keep belieivng in themselves. This doesn’t mean they’ve become bad players. You can’t fault any individual player.”

Of the 16 players on duty for Tuesday’s tussle with Harrow, eight were teenagers and another had turned 20 three weeks ago.

In addition to the forwards who have been injured, the Rocks are also missing central defender Stuart Axten, out for another three to four weeks with ankle ligament damage, Ben Andrews, due to have a knee scan today with the club fearing the worst, and Dan Kempson, who faces another fortnight out with a knee problem.

Midfielder Kane Wills has one more match of a three-game ban to sit out when Southern League division-one side Bridgwater Town visit Nyewood Lane this weekend in the FA Trophy.

Howell felt the young team played well in the first half against Harrow and said he’d be more worried about the lack of goals if they were not performing.

“As manager I know where the problem is and it’s my job to fix it - but it’s not a quick fix,” he said.

“The players are largely doing what’s asked of them but we all know is this is a results business and good football can’t go on without an end product.”

Two of the younger members of the squad to be singled out for praise this week are new loanee centre-half Matt Partridge, who has arrived from Reading’s academy, and midfield man Doug Tuck, named star man against Harrow.

Howell said: “Matt’s settled in really quick and is striking up a good understanding with Louis John. As for Doug, he was excellent against Harrow. It’s been a tough introduction to senior football for him but he’s coping really well.”

 

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