Rocks Review: Here are the team changes

Allan Tait on his Rocks debut at Dulwich  Picture by Tommy McMillan
Allan Tait on his Rocks debut at Dulwich Picture by Tommy McMillan

The rate at which the Rocks team has changed this season will be evident as they try to return to winning ways at home to Corinthian Casuals on Saturday.

The starting XI could include just five players who were regulars a couple of months ago.

The side is set to feature a new strike-partnership- and-winger combination, a midfielder playing at right-back and a player making his midfield debut.

Yet joint boss Jamie Howell insists the squad still has the quality to ensure the Rocks remain in the promotion hunt until the end of the season.

The Rocks started the season with a line-up very similar to the one that went so close to the Ryman one south title last term.

But since then they’ve lost Michael Birmingham and Luke Nightingale to retirement, James Fraser, Matt Whitehead and Perry Ryan to other clubs, Tim Bond, Lewis Ide and Ben Andrews to long-term injury, and now Jon Marzetti and James Crane to suspensions. It’s been the most testing of times for the management, but the Rocks go into Saturday – and a revenge mission over a side who inflicted their first league defeat of this season in October – a point clear at the top.

The selection posers mean Ashley Robinson, Allan Tait, Callum Saunders and Sonny Cobbs could all start on Saturday,with midfielder and captain Dan Beck set to be used at right-back in the absence of banned duo Marzetti and Crane, and Cobbs possibly moving into central midfield.

Forward Steve Harper has a minor Achilles problem and is unlikely to play while Terry Dodd could be rested.

The upshot is that Craig Stoner, Stuart Axten, Beck and Kane Wills could be the only ‘survivors’ from the team who beat Crawley Down 128 days ago.

Howell said it was a challenging time but one the club had to cope with. He insisted there’d be no panic, even if their winless run in 2012 stretched to a fourth game this weekend.

“It will be a tough game – we know that from the way they played when we went to their place and lost 3-1,” Howell said.

“We just have to stay focused and play as we know we can play. I’m certainly not panicking about not winning in three games because we still have a good team and a good squad.

“In the past 18 months we’ve not had a bad spell but we will have one at some point.

“We don’t go overboard when things go well and won’t go overboard if things don’t go so well.”

Some observers believe it would be no bad thing if the Rocks were knocked off top spot for a while.

They’re just a point ahead of Whitehawk, two clear of Dulwich Hamlet and Folkestone and three in front of Maidstone.

Howell believes all the top five, and possibly Worthing, will challenge until the final weekend of the season and says the lead will probably change hands a few times yet.

The management are still looking to improve the squad, although recent additions have put them over-budget.