Bognor’s players have been told to prove their play-off credentials by beating fierce rivals Worthing in the big Nyewood Lane derby on Saturday.
Rocks manager Jack Pearce reckons Adam Hinshelwood’s side will look at Bognor’s recent home form and fancy their chances – especially after Haringey won 4-0 at the Lane last weekend.
But the Rocks management want their players to put that loss straight out of their system with a high-tempo start and solid display against Worthing to claim three points which would put them right back in the play-off picture.
There are worries over whether top scorer Jimmy Muitt will be fit to face the Mackerels after coming off late in the Haringey game with a jarred knee – a big blow so soon after loanee forward Dan Smith moved on to Cork City.
But full-back Calvin Davies should be fit to start after knee trouble with centre-half Keaton Wood, a long-term ankle injury victim, set to be on the bench. Midfielder Richard Gilot and winger Mason Walsh are also fit after recent absences.
Coach Robbie Blake said: “We don’t need to prepare the players any differently because it’s Worthing. We’ll be on the front foot and be looking to take the game to them.
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“The players know how important this game is – if they didn’t, they shouldn’t be at Bognor. We’ll have our biggest crowd of the season and there will be a terrific atmosphere, as there was when we went to Worthing.
“We have to react in the right way (to last week’s defeat) and to the lads’ credit we have done that before this season. I’m pretty sure we’ll see a different game and hopefully a different result.”
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Blake said the loss to second-placed Haringey was one to forget: “I could call it more than a bad day. If we’d played like we did in the first 15 minutes we’d have won 3-0. Then there’s a bad tackle and they want to get it into free-kicks and balls into our box and we succumb to it.
“I felt sorry for the punters. We get a big crowd in and put in a performance like that. It’s inept really.
“We don’t like physicality and can’t cope with balls into our box. We’re a shadow of the team we were early in the season. We’ll get it right, we’ll be there, but it was a very, very poor day of the office. We only had three players playing - Doug Tuck, Jimmy Muitt and Harvey Whyte.”
Blake also praised midfielder Tuck for playing his 300th Bognor game - and tipped him to go on to play 500 for the Rocks.
Manager Pearce acknowledged the Worthing game was hugely important. “It carries the same number of points as any other game but it’s always nice to beat your rivals,” he said. “If you look at our home form I should think Worthing will be expecting to win and we’ll have to work hard.
“I thought the first quarter of an hour (against Haringey) was the best the team have played for many, many weeks.
“We created three one-on-ones with the keeper and the shots didn’t trouble the keeper one iota. If one of those had gone in it would have been a different game of football.
“We then changed the way we were playing and ended up playing to the other team’s strengths. I think Haringey scored with their first shot. If we had scored two of our three early chances that would have been it.”