Kings on the road! Rocks win high praise after run of victories

Doug Tuck on the ball at Bowers and Pitsea, where the Rocks made it four away wins in 11 days / Picture by Tommy McMillan
Doug Tuck on the ball at Bowers and Pitsea, where the Rocks made it four away wins in 11 days / Picture by Tommy McMillan

Bognor boss Jack Pearce heaped praise on his depleted squad after they completed an amazing run of four away wins in 11 days.

A 2-1 victory at Bowers and Pitsea on Tuesday night made it nine points from nine in a sequence of Isthmian premier awaydays which had also included success at Folkestone and Kingstonian. On Saturday they won 3-1 in the first qualifying round of the FA Trophy.

Now the big test is to take their away form into home matches, starting with a league game versus Enfield this Saturday.

Pearce said: “It’s been a very, very pleasing run. In fact we’ve won six out of the past seven games. The players have worked ever so hard and we’ve also had a bit of luck here and there, which you do need.

“It’s been difficult losing Jimmy Muitt at short notice and having some of the Pompey players recalled and missing a couple of games but the players we’ve had available have coped well.”

Pompey have recalled striker Brad Lethbridge and midfielder Josh Flint in each of the past two midweek for Blues reserves matches, meaning the pair have been absent from the Rocks squad at Kingstonian and Bowers and Pitsea.

The Fratton Park club outfit also took defender Joe Dandy back last week, but did allow him to stay with Bognor for this week’s trip to Essex.

Pearce hopes all three will be available to face Enfield at the weekend - though he said he was gutted for another Pompey youngster the Rocks have used this season, left-back Joe Hancott, who is facing months out with a cruciate ligament tear suffered in training.

Pearce said the recent acquisition of goalkeeper Amadou Tangara and centre-half Joe Cook - the latter on loan - had made a huge difference to Bognor’s ability to defend.

Cook’s first game was the home win over Haringey, which was the first in that run of seven games that has brought six wins. Tangara’s record so far is played four, won four, conceded only three.

Also delighted with results is coach Robbie Blake.

After the Trophy win at Uxbridge – which has set up a second qualifying round tie at home to East Thurrock on Saturday week - Blake said the win was satisfying even if they knew they could play better.

“As a group of players, with that performance a month ago we might have got beaten,” he said. “We have brought players in these last few weeks and it’s made us look so much better. We’ve got some really good footballers but we need to keep pushing on.”

Blake picked out for praise striker Brad Lethbridge, saying he was ‘bordering on being unplayable’ when he was on form. Lethbridge made a big impact as a sub at Uxbridge.

Three nights later Blake was jubilant at the win over Bowers and Pitsea. “We dominated the first half and scored a great goal through Smudger – he’s got that in the bag and has great composure.

“We said to the players at half-time, more of the same, keep passing wide and forward. But the opposition didn’t allow us to do that in the second half.

“We didn’t show the same composure and they got on top. They were very unlucky to lose the game but you take the good luck.

“Our second goal was the only good bit of play we managed in the whole second half, when we did go wide.

“We had 13 players and they put a massive shift in. Hopefully we can get a couple of players back and a couple of additions, and can make a real push for it. I firmly believe in the players we’ve got.

“We’ve all knuckled down in the past couple of weeks and there’s a bit more harmony in the club.

The Rocks have lost Brazilian forward Victor Hensel to injury. He dislocated his shoulder during the Uxbridge game and looks set to be on the sidelines long-term.

Pearce said attempts to boost squad numbers were continuing but were as tricky as ever.

Saturday’s Enfield clash is followed by a Sussex Senior Cup visit to Storrington on Tuesday.