Rocks have achieved a lot - but can’t relax yet

The Rocks get ready to face Hendon   Picture by Tommy McMillan
The Rocks get ready to face Hendon Picture by Tommy McMillan

The Rocks squad go into their final league game being told: You’ve been great - but don’t stop battling yet.

They have guaranteed a home play-off semi-final spot and go to East Thurrock on Saturday knowing a win there will see them finish second.

Manager Jamie Howell said the squad had done well to get this far but injuries were piling up - and he said a lot of the hard work would be in vain were they not able to mount a final push for honours.

Ideally Howell would be able to juggle his squad and rest a few players where he could.

But with striker Dan Thompson now suspended and midfielders Sammy Igoe and Harvey Whyte and winger Arron Hopkinson injured, he has precious little room for manoeuvre.

Thompson is banned for three games starting Saturday after his red card against Wingate and Finchley. The club appealed against the length of the ban were but were unsuccessful.

Igoe is likely to be out for a fortnight with a hamstring injury picked up in Monday’s 3-0 home win over Hendon, Whyte is probably out for the season with an ankle problem sustained at Enfield three weeks ago while Hopkinson suffered an ankle injury in Saturday’s victory at Maidstone - although he could be fit for the Thurrock trip.

Full-back Michael Weir is back in the frame and Howell may bring one or two young members of the squad in for cup duty.

Dan Kempson is also in contention, while defender Daryl Wollers can be used sparingly as he nears a date for his hip op.

One big bonus on Monday was the return to action of winger Ben Johnson. He’d been out since November with a knee injury but came through the second half against Hendon without any problems - and could have a big part to play in the remaining games.

Howell wants to salute the squad’s fine season but says each of the remaining games is vital and there’ll be plenty of time to reflect once the last game is over.

Bognor will face one from Dulwich Hamlet, Lowestoft or AFC Hornchurch in the play-off semi. If they finish second, they’d also be at home in the final were they to reach it. Kingstonian are the other team who have guaranteed a home semi-final.

Howell said: “It’s a great achievement for us to have earned a home semi-final play-off and next Wednesday should be a great occasion when we know the whole town will get behind us.

“I thought we were superb at Maidstone on Saturday and controlled the game in one of our best performances of the season. We don’t always get credit for our better performances but we certainly deserved it there.

“Then against Hendon we got the job done professionally. We’re playing well and in good form.

“Saturday is important. We can’t sit back just because we’ve already qualified for the play-offs - we want to finish second. It could be vital.”


Get the first reports from East Thurrock and the play-off semi-final at