Rocks boss keeps faith despite another disastrous Nye Camp afternoon

Stefan Ljubicic reacts to his second-half red card
Stefan Ljubicic reacts to his second-half red card

Rocks boss Jack Pearce reflected on another disastrous day in the club’s relegation battle – but said he was not giving up hope they could still save themselves.

Their 2-0 home defeat to Truro on Saturday means they have picked up just two points from their past eight league matches at Nyewood Lane, and leaves them seven points off safety near the bottom of National League South.

Worse still, they suffered another nasty injury and another red card, both of which left many bemoaning the performance of the officials.

The injury was to keeper Dan Lincoln, who was feared to have suffered a spinal injury in a challenge with Truro striker Ben Gerring that led to the first goal.

In the event there was no lasting damage to Lincoln but a series of nasty stud marks across his back left Rocks fans asking how on earth the goal had been allowed.

Lincoln is hoping to be fit for Saturday’s league visit to Chippenham, when the pressure is on Bognor to find the win that could kick-start a revival.

The other blow suffered on Saturday saw new Icelandic striker Stefan Ljubicic sent off 62 minutes into a promising debut. He saw red for violent conduct as he went into an aerial challenge elbow-first and will miss the next three games, leaving Pearce and Co searching for another striker.

Pearce said: “I won’t be visiting any casinos or bookmakers in the near future. The way things are going for the team at the moment, it wouldn’t be a good idea.”

He felt the crucial Truro opener could have been disallowed for the foul that left Lincoln prone and caused a delay of nearly an hour while paramedics were called who could assess him and get him on to a spinal board.

The other controversial aspect of the goal was that Calvin Davies felt he had cleared the ball before it crossed the line but the linesman gave it.

“It’s one of those that some refs would have disallowed and others wouldn’t,” Pearce said. “I think the majority would have disallowed it. If anything I was more annoyed that the assistant referee said he was 100 per cent sure the ball had crossed the line. If there is any doubt you shouldn’t give it.”

Pearce was philosophical about Ljubicic’s red card, saying it was the second time ‘exaggeration’ of an injury in a challenge had seen a Rocks player sent off, with Ben Swallow suffering a similar fate for a tackle on Havant’s Matt Tubbs a month ago.

The manager said: “In the modern game there is a disease of players trying to get opponents booked or sent off by exaggerating injury. It is happening too much and we need to do stop it. My initial reaction was that Stefan was perhapd guilty of dangerous play – but not violent conduct.”

Pearce said the incidents summed up Bognor’s season and vowed to carry on with the fight to stay up.

With 14 games left, Bognor are seven points from the teams they need to overhaul – and have bottom side Whitehawk fast closing the gap below them.

Pearce added: “For long periods against Truro we were as good as them, though admittedly we didn’t create much. After the game restarted we had an opportunity to make it 1-1 but didn’t take it.

“If we had been outplayed in the games we had lost, we wouldn’t have much hope of improving our position. But we played Whitehawk four weeks ago and should have won by three or four – and now they have put a run together.

“We also need to put three or four wins together but it needs to happen very soon. I’m still hopeful but I’m disappointed with where we are. I take responsibility for it for failing to get a striker in but it’s not been for the want of trying.”

Centre-half Sami El-Abd and midfielder Doug Tuck should be fit to face 19th-placed Chippenham after recovering from niggly injuries while Ollie Pearce is training again this week to see whether he is sufficiently over his long-term groin problem to feature.

But full-back James Crane and central defenders Corey Heath and Chad Field are still out.

STEVE BONE