Rocks on a roll but Maidstone will bring new test
JAMIE HOWELL reflected on one of the Rocks’ best results of the season – but vowed they wouldn’t go suddenly thinking they could beat anyone.
Saturday’s impressive 4-1 win over Hendon was Bognor’s joint biggest league win of the season and came against a side who had not lost in the league since August.
It sets them up nicely for another clash with a leading side – they visit second-placed Maidstone on Saturday – but Howell is promising they will keep their feet on the ground over their excellent recent run of form.
They’ve now won four and drawn one of their last five home games in the league, banishing the memory of a start to the season when they struggled to perform in front of their own fans.
A run of three wins in their past four Ryman premier outings has put them ninth, just seven points off a place in the play-off zone – a far cry from the opening to the campaign, which yielded just three points from the first seven matches.
Saturday’s win coincided with the start of striker Jason Prior’s second loan spell but while he played his part, it was Alex Parsons, Ollie Pearce and Doug Tuck who took the goalscoring plaudits.
Howell said: “I was delighted by the result and the performance – it was everything I’ve been looking for. Our football in the first 20 minutes or so was excellent. We played with confidence, took our chances and did everything right.
“When Hendon pulled it back to 3-1 so soon after our third I knew we weren’t home and dry. They were always going to have a good go back but we defended well and had a few chances for a fourth before Doug scored late on.”
Howell said Prior had again made a difference coming back into the side but he heaped praise on Pearce – who he said had been a ‘livewire’ in every game of late – and said Parsons’ performance, capped by a superb headed goal, was impressive.
But every week brings a different challenge and the Rocks will have to be at their best again on Saturday at Maidstone, who have won ten and drawn one of their 11 home league games.
The Stones, fresh from their FA Cup adventure in which they beat Stevenage before losing at Wrexham, also have the best defensive record in the league with only 16 conceded in 20 games.
But the Rocks can take heart from their last visit to the Gallagher Stadium last Easter, when they won 2-1 with one of their best displays of last season.
“I’m not going to say we can go there and do this and do that, but we can go there and compete, where earlier in the season I wouldn’t have been confident we could do that,” Howell said.
“We need to be able to deal with their long throws and aerial dominance.”
Winger Ben Johnson may be in contention for a recall if he can prove his fitness at training, but he does have a cartilage problem that will need surgery at some stage.
Left-back Daryl Wollers has his long-awaited hip operation this week while right-back Paul Hinshelwood is due to have surgery early in the new year on a knee problem. Midfielder Charlie Oatway is another being monitored for cartilage trouble.
The Rocks are back in home action next Tuesday when Witham Town visit for a rearranged league game.