The Rocks fear it will be tough to replace Jimmy Muitt after he ended his week-to-week contract to move to Dorking.
The forward has gone to play for Marc White’s National League side, with the chief attraction said to be playing the game at a higher level. Dorking are fourth in the table following promotion last season.
Bognor have wished Muitt well, but the timing of his departure is far from ideal although it didn't stop them notching an excellent 1-0 win at Kingstonian on Wednesday night.
It is understood Dorking first moved for Muitt in the summer, when they would have had to pay the Rocks compensation for him as he was under 24.
Now they have moved for him immediately after his 24th birthday – meaning the Rocks do not get a penny.
It’s also believed Muitt had told Bognor he would give them ‘fair and due notice’ of his intention to end his week-to-week contract.
His move, finalised on Tuesday, left them with only one senior striker for last night’s visit to Kingstonian.
Their player shortage was worsened when Pompey recalled striker Brad Lethbridge, midfielder Josh Flint and defender Joe Dandy for a reserve game – which meant hours before kick-off against the Ks, manager Jack Pearce and coach Robbie Blake were looking at a squad of 12. They did eventually manage to find 13 - meaning they had only two subs.
Muitt began his career at Brighton, scoring twice against Bognor in a Sussex Senior Cup match. A serious knee injury scuppered his chances with the Seagulls and he moved to Lewes before joining the Rocks at the start of the 2016-17 season.
He became a fans’ favourite at Nyewood Lane and although Pearce acknowledges it is a blow to lose him to Dorking, where he will link up with another former Rocks favourite, Jason Prior, he couldn’t stand in his way.
Pearce said: “Jimmy has been a fabulous servant and any club would miss having a player in their ranks with the ability he has. But we understand entirely his desire to play at the highest standard possible and so although it isn’t ideal, Jimmy leaves with our heartfelt thanks for all of his efforts on our behalf. We wish Jimmy all the very best.
“Make no mistake, we have already begun the search to try to replace him, which won’t be easy.”
Pearce said finding a forward proven at Isthmian premier level ten weeks into the season was a headache.
It is a setback after a fine weekend for the team, who secured a 2-1 win away to leaders Folkestone, which Pearce said showed they could compete with anyone in the division.
A hectic period began with that win against Kingstonian last night and continues with an FA Trophy first qualifying round tie at Uxbridge on Saturday and a league game away to Bowers and Pitsea on Tuesday.
Pearce said the Pompey trio had been wanted by their parent club for a Hampshire Senior Cup match away to Havant but should be back with the Rocks at the weekend.
Dandy, back in action after injury, returned to the Bognor starting line-up at Folkestone while Flint made his Bognor debut off the bench.
The pair and Lethbridge will be valuable members of the Bognor squad all the time Pompey allow them to remain at the Lane.
Pearce praised the team for the win over Folkestone, secured by James Crane’s header and Dan Smith’s late winner.
“We could have had more in the second half and the win was just what we needed after losing at home to Potters Bar the previous week,” he said.
“It was a good effort from everyone and we need to find that sort of level in every week.”
Blake said: “I think Folkestone were the best team we’ve played. For the first 20 minutes we sat off them too much but after that we matched them.
“It’s small steps but it’s a step in the right direction and we have to keep building. Huge credit to the boys. We finished really strongly.
“Their keeper made three great saves and it was going to take a great finish to beat him and it was fantastic from Dan. Smudger (Smith) is a great professional and is a credit to himself and to us.”
It has been a winning start for new keeper Amadou Tangara, who has impressed in his two outings so far.
Pearce and Blake have praised neighbours Chichester for reaching the first – and now the second – round of the FA Cup. Blake said: “I think some people probably don’t realise how much of an achievement it is.”