Bognor are celebrating on two fronts – returning to the top of the league and having a weekend off.
The Rocks have been limping through games without seven senior players and are relieved to have this weekend’s home clash with Leiston called off because the opposition have an FA Trophy match.
They needed a gritty backs-to-the-wall display to overcome Harrow Borough 1-0 at Nyewood Lane on Tuesday, the perfect response to Saturday’s 4-1 defeat at Tonbridge.
Afterwards they were relieved to hear their Ryman premier promotion rivals Leiston had won at Eastbourne Borough, which means their planned visit to Nyewood Lane this Saturday is off.
The Rocks will not now be in action until Saturday week, by which time at least four key players could be back in contention.
Against Harrow, they were without defenders Gary Charman (broken foot), Chad Field (hamstring) and Calvin Davies (suspended); midfielders Dan Beck (hip flexor) and James Fraser (work), winger Alex Parsons (modelling) and striker Jimmy Muitt (hamstring).
I defy any manager to carry on as normal when you have as many as seven senior players out. And we’ve not got the biggest squad to start with.Jamie Howell
But by the time they go to Folkestone in nine days’ time, boss Jamie Howell says Fraser and Parsons will both be back with the squad and any of Charman, Field and Muitt could be fit to play.
Beck probably needs a little longer but could be back for the big Christmas and New Year games, while Davies completes his three-match ban next time the Rocks play.
In the meantime Howell is trying to bring in one or two new faces to boost the strength of the squad, talking to a number of clubs about players who may be available.
The manager has paid tribute to the way those who have played have performed – particularly those being sent out when not 100 per cent and 17-year-old duo Will Robinson and Fintan Walsh, who have stepped in for bigger games than they would normally be asked to play.
Howell said: “We were well beaten at Tonbridge and really needed a result against Harrow. But we were still way under strength and knew it wouldn’t be easy.
“It wasn’t a great performance but I’m proud of the players. It was a different type of challenge because once we went one up, which I thought we deserved, they had an awful lot of the ball and put us under massive pressure.
“Dan Lincoln was brilliant with a penalty save and some other crucial stops and Daryl Wollers did well coming back in for his first game in ages. But it was a team effort and every player was dead on his feet afterwards. I don’t mind admitting it was a relief when we heard Saturday’s game was off.
“Harvey Whyte, for example, has been out since July and has come back and had to play three games in a week. And Jimmy Wild ideally wouldn’t be playing again so soon after fracturing a cheekbone.
“I defy any manager to carry on as normal when you have as many as seven senior players out. And we’ve not got the biggest squad to start with.”
Coach Darin Killpartrick said: “We perhaps got a bit lucky against Harrow but in our circusmstances I think we deserve that. We’ve got a lot of tired legs and we’re over the moon we’ve got no game this weekend.
“We were well beaten at Tonbridge but had half the first-choice team sitting in the dugout. We’ve been analysing if there’s any reason we are getting so many injuries. It’ll be fantastic to have players back soon.”
The Rocks went two points clear of Havant in top spot with the Harrow win, but Lee Bradbury’s team will expect to reclaim pole position on Saturday when they go to Merstham.
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