The countdown to Bognor’s big FA Trophy quarter-final can begin – even though they have the small matter of a visit to face the league leaders to come first.
The Rocks will host National League premier side Torquay in a Trophy quarter-final at Nyewood Lane next weekend after the Gulls won their third-round replay at Macclesfield 1-0 on Tuesday night.
And boss Jamie Howell is not trying to ban talk about the game until after this weekend’s visit to East Thurrock, believing it important that everyone connected with the Rocks celebrates the fact the team have got this far and have such a big occasion to look forward to.
He has also warned Torquay – who have been in the Football League for 85 of the past 90 seasons – that his side will not just be turning up to enjoy the last-eight clash.
Bognor’s Ryman premier promotion bid has been held up by the weather – the home game against Brentwood scheduled for last Saturday was rained off. But they did reach a Sussex Senior Cup date with Eastbourne Borough by beating Burgess Hill 2-1 in the fourth round at the Lane on Tuesday.
It’s all combined to bring extra fixture congestion for the Rocks which is almost certain to see them have to play three games in seven days at least once before the season ends.
Howell says it will be a tough schedule but wants the club to make the most of an exciting run-in and good winning sequence.
“Torquay’s not a banned word – it’s important we start to think about it and what it means to the club and the town. We can celebrate what we’ve achieved to get to the quarter-finals and focus on extending our winning run for as long as we can.
“It’s nice to know who we’ll be playing and when Torquay come to us it should be a fantastic occasion. And we’ll we can go into the game confident we can give them a good game – we’re not just turning up to let them go through.”
This Saturday, the focus turns back to the promotion race as the Rocks visit new leaders East Thurrock. Howell’s team’s lack of recent league games has seen them slip to sixth. They’re ten points behind Saturday’s hosts but have FIVE games in hand on them.
They’re facing a run of up to five successive away games in March and Howell admitted it would be a huge test.
“The schedule we’re facing would test any club and we don’t have the biggest squad. But the good thing is we are going into it in good form.”
They have added versatile Brighton and Hove Albion youngster Connor Tighe to their squad on loan. He can play wide left, wide right or in midfield.
Tighe, midfielder Gary Charman and winger Alex Parsons will all come into the squad for Saturday after having to sit out the county cup win over Burgess Hill, which came courtesy of a Stuart Green header and a Jason Prior penalty.
Striker Ollie Pearce has another two games of a three-match ban to serve while right-back Harvey Whyte is out for about a month with a hamstring tear. Left-back Daryl Wollers pushed his claims for regular starts with a solid display against the Hillians.
Howell said: “We were delighted to get through against Burgess Hill although we weren’t at our best. I played a strong team because the Sussex Senior Cup is important to us.
“East Thurrock will give us a hard game – they are having an excellent season and probably weren’t one of the sides you’f have most fanced at the start.”
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