Rocks squad looking healthier - but it needs to

Ben Johnson on the ball against Thurrock - he'll be in the side at Wingate on Saturday  Picture by Tommy McMillan
Ben Johnson on the ball against Thurrock - he'll be in the side at Wingate on Saturday Picture by Tommy McMillan

The Rocks head into one of the most hectic periods of the season with competition for places across the pitch – and are hoping it stays that way.

Reinforcements brought in to bolster what was a depleted-looking dressing room will give the ranks a healthier look now unavailable players are coming back.

Manager Jamie Howell admits it’s a nice position to be in, but stresses the games are now thick and fast and everyone will have a part to play.

The Rocks had to draft in Chichester City goalkeeper Anthony Ender for one game and Crawley centre-half Louis John for a month ahead of last Saturday’s FA Trophy first qualifying round win over Thurrock. They have also recruited Selsey striker Omar Bugiel on dual-registration forms.

With suspended keeper Mark Zawadski free to play again in Saturday’s Ryman premier visit to Wingate & Finchley and the likes of defender Alex Malins, midfielder Scott Chamberlain and striker Ben Godfrey all fit and available again after recent absences for a variety of reasons, Howell has the sort of selection problems he likes.

Another midfielder, Doug Tuck, has two more games of a three-match ban to sit out while Dan Kempson’s availability in the coming weeks may be affected by new university commitments.

Saturday’s trip is the first of eight games in five weeks - that’s not including any more Trophy games they could face - so Howell is happy to have men to spare for now.

He said: “It’s a nice position to be in but the situation we were in last week, when we were struggling to get a starting XI together, shows that you need a decent-size squad.

“Anthony Ender came in and did very well on Saturday - we’re grateful to Chichester for letting us have him, and to Selsey for the arrangement with Omar, who we’re keen to have a look at.

“We’re also delighted to have Louis John back from Crawley on loan. He was excellent for us last season and although the Thurrock was his first game back, he slotted in seamlessly.”

Malins, who had a hamstring problem, should be fit to face Wingate but midfielder Harvey Whyte and left-back Michael Weir are probably a week away from full fitness.

Howell was content with the Trophy win, which earned the club £2,700 and saw them in the second qualifying round hat, in which they were drawn to host Southern League premier side Chippenham on Saturday week.

“We were never totally comfortable against Thurrock and weren’t as fluent as we have been in many games recently, but we played well and deserved to go through,” he said.

“The money’s important for the club and it would be nice to go a little further.”

Terry Dodd was the hero with both goals, making it very difficult for the management to put him back on the bench now Godfrey - who had partnered Ollie Pearce up front for much of the early season - is back from a spell away.

In the league, the Rocks have won their past six and have dropped only two points in eight games in a run stretching back to August 20.

They could break into the play-off zone with a win in north London but Howell said: “We won’t be complacent. Wingate & Finchley have a good squad, but we must concentrate keeping on doing the things we’ve been doing right in recent matches.”