FA Cup run could mean fame for Rocks and their stars

Jamie Howell and Darin Killpartrick on the sidelines at Eastbourne / Picture by Tommy McMillan
Jamie Howell and Darin Killpartrick on the sidelines at Eastbourne / Picture by Tommy McMillan

Jack Pearce says Bognor’s FA Cup run has the potential to change players’ lives or set the club up for a major windfall.

The Rocks again find themselves just one game from the first round proper, having turned in a superb display to win 2-0 away to Jamie Howell’s Eastbourne Borough in Saturday’s third qualifying stage.

They visit Oxford City a week on Saturday knowing that if they can overcome their National League South rivals, they will join clubs from League One and League Two for their first appearance in 22 years in the first-round draw.

That could bring a tie against a club like Pompey, Charlton or Blackburn, which would be worth tens of thousands of pounds to the Rocks and earn huge nationwide exposure.

They’ve already made £12,000 from their two wins in this season’s cup and will earn another £12,500 if they win at Oxford. The potential for TV money comes on top of that.

Pearce – veteran of Bognor’s regular appearances in the first and second rounds in the 1980s and 90s – admits a Cup run is exciting for everyone at the club but warns they must take a step at a time.

The pressure of being in the final qualifying round doesn’t get to me but the players will know this really the only competition that can dramatically change their careers, or can make a big difference to a club.

Jack Pearce

Oxford City, a place below the Rocks in the lower reaches of National South, will provide a stiff test – and before then, this Saturday, Bognor have a league visit to Dartford to tackle.

But the Rocks head into a period of big games without centre-half Sami El-Abd. He suffered a hamstring problem at Eastbourne and is likely to be out four to six weeks.

That’s in addition to full-back James Crane, set to take another six weeks or so to recover from a dislocated shoulder – while Doug Tuck is given only a 30 per cent chance of being fit with a hamstring injury to play this Saturday.

Luckily for the Rocks, young defender Corey Heath is over an ankle problem and can slot in alongside Chad Field in El-Abd’s place.

That’s likely to mean one of the club’s youngest-ever back fours lining up on Saturday, with left-back Kristian Campbell, on loan from Bromley, available to come back in after missing the Cup game, in which Dan Beck proved an able deputy.

Pearce was delighted by the team’s display at Eastbourne, where Ollie Pearce scored in each half to earn a 2-0 win. The Rocks were also grateful to keeper Dan Lincoln for some vital saves and defender Calvin Davies for one amazing goal-line clearance.

Pearce said: “In any cup game, the main thing is that you come out with a win. Your second priority is to make sure the team gives everything they’ve got to try to win, and a lot of hard work went into us winning that game.

“It was a performance with a lot of quality but our keeper played well when called upon and we had a lot of defending to do.

“There were lots of encouraging signs of our attitude, but we’re still a work in progress. For example, at 2-0 up we had two or three chances to make it 3-0 and kill off the game but didn’t take them. But it was a good day for the club and the supporters.

“It’s disappointing not be rewarded with a home tie but Oxford City is still a tie we can look forward to. The pressure of being in the final qualifying round doesn’t get to me but the players will know this really the only competition that can dramatically change their careers, or can make a big difference to a club.

“If you do well in the FA Cup you don’t know where it might lead.”

Coach Darin Killpartrick savoured the win and said: “It didn’t matter that it was Eastbourne – it was the fact we needed a win and it was the FA Cup. It was a great day for the club and the fans, who were amazing again.

“I felt we deserved the win – the whole team played well. A home tie would have been nice in the next round but we’ve got what we’ve got and it will be anyone’s game.

“The focus for now is on Dartford and they will give us a hard game. But the way our young team are playing, nothing would surprise me.”

STEVE BONE

Get the first Dartford v Rocks report at www.bognor.co.uk on Saturday evening