ROCKS manager Jamie Howell reflected on reaching the final qualifying round of the FA Cup and said: It’s massive.
Bognor are one round away from a potential tie with a Football League club that would put the town on the map and give the club national publicity and a huge windfall.
They reached the fourth qualifying round for the first time since 2004 when they came from 2-1 down with 18 minutes left to beat Oxford City 4-2 at Nyewood Lane on Saturday.
Oxford play a division above the Rocks in National League South – and Howell’s men will have to achieve a similar feat to reach November’s first round proper.
Their next tie, on Saturday week, is away to Wealdstone, who play in the same division as City. If Bognor can win that tie – in which they’ll be backed by a large travelling army of fans – they’ll go into the hat with the likes of Pompey, Sheffield United, Coventry, Millwall and Blackpool.
The club have earned £15,000 from the three rounds they have got through so far, but that will almost double with another victory.
It was a day that will live long in the memory.Jamie Howell
And the potential to earn money multiplies greatly once the Football League teams and live TV matches come into the equation.
Howell said the Wealdstone game would be another very tough assignment and it was important everyone focused on that before getting excited at the prospect of the ‘proper’ rounds.
He was proud of players and fans alike after Saturday’s win, which came courtesy of two goals apiece from Jason Prior and Alex Parsons. Howell said: “It was a day that will live long in the memory.
“We played superbly to stay in the game and go for broke.
“I can’t say the decision to bring on Alex Parsons, who then scored twice in three minutes, was a stroke of genius. We needed to bring on fresh legs and he was the man we turned to. On another day, he could have had a stinker!
“But when we pulled it back to 2-2, there was no way we were going to sit on it and look for the draw. We went for it.
“It’s created a real buzz around the club and it’s fantastic. But Wealdstone will be a very difficult game.
“We know them from games in the Ryman premier and they’re an excellent side who play the game the right way.
“We’re disappointed to be drawn away but we have had three rounds at home. We’ll go there with confidence and I’ll admit it will not just be another game –it will be massive.”
Coach Darin Killpartrick, not normally one to get carried away, admitted even he got highly-emotional at Saturday’s triumph.
“It meant a lot to the club and to the supporters and there were some lovely scenes,” said Killpartrick.
“Throughout the game, even at 2-1 down, we always thought we had a chance. We’ll approach the next round in the same way.”
Howell also praised keeper Grant Smith – who faced Oxford just hours after a car crash – and coach Lee Conway, who drove to the scene of the accident to make sure Smith was okay.
Such has been the excitement caused by the Rocks’ passage to this stage for the first time since 2004, their rise to third place in the Ryman premier has taken a back seat.
Nevertheless, Howell and Killpartrick were delighted with Tuesday’s 4-1 home win over Farnborough which left them just two points behind leaders Canvey.
Parsons scored the last, again after coming on, after goals from youngsters Alfie Rutherford (2) and the increasingly-impressive Snorre Nilsen.
Howell said: “I was never totally comfortable because I felt Farnborough had a goal in them, but it was pleasing to score some goals.”
League duties take over before the Wealdstne trip –the Rocks host East Thurrock on Saturday and go to Kingstonian on Monday.
Utility man Craig Robson is available again and Harvey Whyte and Doug Tuck should be over niggles. Stuart Green is due to have a scan on his back today.
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