Rocks Review: One injury crisis solved - then another strikes

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The Rocks solved one injury crisis by recruiting a new goalkeeper - only to be lumbered with another as two senior centre-halves were crocked.

Now they’re on the hunt for more new blood - someone who can partner Stuart Axten at the heart of the defence in another big Ryman premier game at home to Kingstonian on Saturday.

From having four senior central defenders to choose from a few weeks ago, they’re down to one.

Louis John is out for four to six weeks with a hamstring injury picked up in the weekend win at Enfield and Ben Andrews is likely to be out for a couple of weeks with severe bruising to his thigh after being the victim of a late challenge in the county cup tie at Eastbourne United on Tuesday night.

The double blow - which comes just weeks after the loan of another centre-half, Reading’s Matt Partridge, came to an end - cast a shadow over another great week for the club results-wise.

The 1-0 success at Enfield courtesy of a James Crane goal cemented their position in the top five while a 4-3 win at wet and windy Eastbourne earned them a Sussex Senior Cup quarter-final place.

Rocks manager Jamie Howell said: “We were just thinking when we were at Enfield how well everything was going and now, suddenly, we’re left with only one centre-half.

“We’re having a look around at whether there’s anyone suitable we can bring in. If not, we could be asking Daryl Wollers or Jon Marzetti to fill in alongside Stuart.”

Marzetti was used as emergency centre-half after Andrews was helped off at Eastbourne following a late tackle that Howell was unhappy about.

The focus on defensive back-up comes after the club moved quickly to sign cover for Craig Stoner, who put his back out while doing a simple jump over a cone in training last Thursday.

They have brought in ex-Pompey, Exeter, Torquay and Crawley stopper Nick Jordan, who has been released by Dorchester.

Howell said: “He’s come in at short notice and done well. He has ambitions at Conference South level, I think, but for now it suits him to help us out, and it suits us too.”

The Rocks stressed they still saw a future for Tom Boyle, who has stood in for Stoner in recent times. Howell said: “We know what Tom can do but on this occasion we wanted to see what Nick could do.”

The problems at the back are in stark contrast to the midfield and forward line, where the recruitment since the turn of the year of wide duo Jordan Clarke and Harvey Whyte and Pompey striker Dan Thompson on loan has increased their options no end.

The ‘fearsome foursome’ highlighted in the Observer last week - Ashley-Paul Robinson, Thompson, Clarke and Whyte - have all played a part in the recent three-game winning run on the road.

But Howell now wants to see his team improve their chances-to-goals ratio.

“In both the past two games, we created a lot of chances but our finishing let us down a bit. We could have been out of sight in both matches,” he said.

“If we can start to take a greater proportion of our chances, I’ll be delighted.

“But generally I’m delighted with how we’re playing. Harvey’s been unbelievable since he came back, Jordan Clarke is getting better each game and Dan has settled in quickly too.”

Kingstonian’s visit to the Lane will be the Rocks’ first home game for a month - that’s if this weekend’s local football programme survives the heavy rain expected between now and then.

The Rocks lost 1-0 at the Ks’ ground in December after keeper Stoner was harshly sent off.

Howell said: “They’re always hard to beat and well-drilled, but we’re enjoying our football at the moment.”

Get the first report from Rocks v Kingstonian on this website on Saturday