Rocks are scoring and winning – but there’s a long way to go

Brad Lethbbridge equalises against Merstham / Picture by Tommy McMillan
Brad Lethbbridge equalises against Merstham / Picture by Tommy McMillan

Rocks boss Jack Pearce reflected on his team taking four points from their first two games but warned: We’ve a long, long way to go.

Bognor followed up an opening-day 2-2 draw at Haringey with a 3-1 home win over Merstham in which their two new Pompey recruits, Brad Lethbridge and Dan Smith, scored fine goals.

But despite five goals in two games – the sort of return Rocks fans could only dream of for much of last season – manager Pearce and coach Robbie Blake say performances need to improve and there is lots for them to work on.

A Jimmy Muitt strike and an own goal earned the Rocks their point on Saturday, while a golden 22 minutes in the first half against Merstham which brought goals from Lethbridge, Chad Field and Smith, earned the Rocks their maiden win bonus of 2018-19.

They host Bishop’s Stortford on Saturday sitting in sixth place but Pearce had mixed feelings after Tuesday’s victory.

He is hopeful of adding another two players to the squad in the near future.

“You’ll look in the paper and it will say 3-1 and it looks comfortable,” said Pearce.

“I was delighted with the goals and I’m pleased for the supporters who have stayed loyal to us, because they’ve seen us get beat enough times over the past year. But I wasn’t that pleased with the performance to be honest. There’s a long way to go yet.

“Merstham did well. If it hadn’t been for Dan Lincoln it could have been 3-3.

“The three goals we scored were all good goals. They were well-taken and I’m pleased for the boys because that’s what we need to do.

“Last year we’d probably have lost that game because we wouldn’t have scored. But there’s a long, long way to go yet and we need to improve a hell of a lot.

“I was disappointed with our urgency to get on the ball. We were the home side and Merstham had been beaten on Saturday while we had a good point on the road. It was our first game on the pitch, which looks good, but Merstham looked more urgent in the first quarter of an hour than we did.

“They were getting to the ball first and whoever good a footballer you are, if you keep getting to the ball second you only ever see the other player play. I’d like to see a lot more urgency.

“I thought we defended well. In the middle of the park I didn’t think we got to grips with it – they bossed the middle for most of the time. But when we did have a good period and we passed it and moved it and showed a bit of patience, we looked okay. And we looked dangerous up front all game.

“I felt for Merstham a little because I didn’t think they deserved to lose 3-1. But it’s better to be lucky than be a good manager because sometimes you need a bit of luck. We had a good bit of fortune but our finishing was excellent and Dan Lincoln, when called upon, made good saves.

“I’m pleased for the players because they’ve worked hard and winning becomes a habit. I’m pleased for the supporters. But in terms of the performance there’s a long way to go and we need to be a lot better.”

Pearce said Lethbridge and Smith had made an immediate impression.

“It’s nice to see people who can score goals because we haven’t had that for a while. They’ve settled in well and good luck to them.

“The good thing is we can only get better.”

Blake said you could not ask for more than a win in your first home game.

“We’ve got three points but I think we’ve seen we’ve got quite a bit of work to do with the team. But it’s a positive winning 3-1 against a good side who didn’t,” said Blake.

“We struggled to come to terms with the start of the game – that’s happened in nearly every game we have played –which is something we need to look at. But it was good character from the lads to come back.”

Blake was pleased to see Lethbridge and Smith score on their home debuts.

“Brad belies his years. He’s got real quality and this is the progession he needs. The Portsmouth academy and youth set-up is very good but for Brad to be playing against men and against good sides is good for him.

“We’ve seen now how composed he is. When Brad gets put in those situations he’s going to score goals. That’s a real positive.

“Smudger (Smith) has scored a special goal too, a brilliant finish. My first thought was ‘Smudger can take it in’ but to chip the keeper from there was such a great finish, one that he’ll go away very happy about.”

Blake felt Merstham made the Rocks work hard in the second half and said his team were perhaps lucky to win 3-1.

Lincoln saved the Rocks a couple of times but Blake said: “We expect that - he’s a terrific keeper and one we’re happy to have.

“But there’s plenty to work on, though if we’re winning 3-1 when we’re not playing particularly well that will stand us in good stead for the rest of the season.

“I don’t think the squad is complete yet. I think we need a couple of additions more and hopefully Jack will work his magic as he normally does.”

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