Rocks Review: Howell’s men braced for big Pompey test

Guy Whittingham takes his Pompey team to Nyewood Lane on Saturday afternoon
Guy Whittingham takes his Pompey team to Nyewood Lane on Saturday afternoon

The Rocks take their new season’s Nyewood Lane bow against Pompey on Saturday (2pm) with club bosses warning fans: Don’t expect too much from us just yet.

Jamie Howell is likely to field one or two potential new additions to squad against Guy Whittingham’s League Two outfit and he’ll probably put one or two youth-team starlets on the bench.

After Pompey won 5-0 at Conference South side Havant on Tuesday night, Howell says it’s clear the Blues will present a tough test. And he urged Rocks fans to remember this was still a very early stage of pre-season for his side.

The Rocks are still awaiting a return to full fitness for winger Ben Johnson and defender Stuart Axten, while Daryl Wollers is out as he waits for groin surgery and striker Terry Dodd is still on holiday.

Lewis Stockford has new work commitments won’t be available for the forseeable future.

But the club fielded three new faces in the 3-2 win at Selsey on Wednesday night - goalkeeper Mark Zawadski and two more potential recruits, right-back Rob Evans from Moneyfields and ex-Lewes forward Aaron Hopkinson - and all three could feature again on Saturday.

Another piece of good news is that centre-half Tim Bond, who has been out for more than 18 months with groin problems, is now close to having an op aimed at clearing up the injury. He could be back in training early in the season.

The Rocks are hopeful of a crowd of well over 1,000 for Saturday’s 2pm kick-off. Plenty of Pompey fans are expected to take an early chance to see how Whittingham’s squad are coming together.

Howell said: “It should be a great day for Bognor. We want to give a good account of ourselves but what I would say to our fans is that it’s very early days as far as our preparations go.

“If we lose 5-0, like Havant did, I hope people don’t go away saying they won’t want to watch us this season. We are still short of some players who will be key for us this season.

“Pompey are well forward with getting their squad together but we’re still looking at people and deciding where we most need extra strength.”

The Rocks are hunting for another striker and centre-half but fear they may not land their men until the season proper is about to begin.

Pre-season training has now been under way for two weeks and coach Darin Killpartrick is impressed with the players’ effort and attitude.

Killpartrick said: “The lads have trained exceptionally hard. Their attitude’s been extremely professional.”

He said he was looking forward to locking horns with Pompey, further cementing the growing links between the clubs.

Pompey’s academy team have started using the Nyewood Lane carpet for some of their matches and the Blues have helped bolster the Rocks squad with loans and work-experience placements.

Killpartrick said: “We have an excellent relationship with Pompey, which is how it should be with our local Football League club. We hope to work closely with them again this season.”

See updates from the Rocks v Pompey game on Twitter - @stevebone1 - and a full report on this website soon after the final whistle.