Rocks players told: If you don’t want to be here, we don’t want you

Jason Prior scores at Nyewood Lane in his last Bognor spell   Picture by Paul Terry
Jason Prior scores at Nyewood Lane in his last Bognor spell Picture by Paul Terry

ROCKS boss Jamie Howell says he has players who don’t seem to want to be at the club – and he is desperate to replace them with others who do.

The manager felt hugely disappointed by the performance and the result of Saturday’s home clash with bottom side AFC Hornchurch. The 2-1 defeat made it four losses from seven appearances at Nyewood Lane, where they have won only once.

He said the whole club felt ‘flat’ and efforts to improve the squad continued to be a top priorty.

They made a big step in the right direction on Thursday night when - as reported first on this website and by sports editor Steve Bone on Twitter - they secured former Nyewood Lane goal legend Jason Prior on a month’s loan from Margate. He goes straight into the squad to face Dulwich on Saturday.

The Rocks have also signed former Dulwich midfielder/striker Omarr Lawson.

The team’s home form is not nearly as strong as their results on the road, where they have won three and drawn two of their nine matches and Howell is well aware they need to start playing well, entertaining and winning at home to prevent fans deserting them. But Howell admits all he and coach Darin Killpartrick seem to be doing is fighting fires.

The latest injury blows came in training on Tuesday night when winger Ben Johnson injured his knee – with fears that could be another medium to long-term knock – and James Crane hurt his thigh, with a fortnight out likely to lie ahead for the full-back.

Better news is that midfielder Charlie Oatway and striker Stuart Green are both just a fortnight or so from being fit after knee and ankle injuries.

Howell said: “We need stronger characters and we need to get the basics right – we are conceding too many soft goals and not scoring enough goals of our own.

“Against Hornchurch we conceded a goal before any of our players had touched the ball, then got ourselves back into and made chances to go ahead. But the longer it went on at 1-1, I was thinking and fearing exactly the same as I imagine most of our fans were – that we’d lose. And we did. I’m afraid it wasn’t a surprise to lose, yet it was a game we should have won 3-1.

“I don’t think the home form is psychological. Our pitch is maybe not quite as good as it has been, but we’ve played on worse away from home and won.

“We’re looking at a pile of problems and the hard bit is knowing where to start solving them. Our stars are not aligning.

“We need more experience in the team to help the younger players. The situation with Ashley-Paul Robinson sums it up. We got him back and he played really well, then told me on Friday he couldn’t play on Saturday. I don’t know game to game when he will be available.”

Howell said he wanted a squad full of players desperate to do well for the club, which he didn’t think he had at present.

“I think we have a few who don’t really want to be here. If I can get players in who do, then they are the ones who will miss out.

“I like to be proud of my teams – the way they are playing and putting 100 per cent effort in. But on Saturday, that pride wasn’t there. It was a performance I’d have wanted people to come and watch. And if we don’t start performing and working hard at home, we can’t expect fans to keep coming back.

“I’d say this is the most challenging time I’ve had here since I’ve been manager. We’re just fighting fires all the time. But when those stars do align, we’ll be okay, I’m confident of that.”

Howell is relishing another battle with Dulwich, close rivals of the Rocks since they faced them in the Ryman one south play-offs two years running.

“I enjoy the way they play and admire what their managers have done,” Howell said. “We did the double over them last season but they have started well and will be very tough opponents.”