Rocks up to second spot - but could injuries threaten their run?
Bognor's march towards the top of the Ryman League continued but they insisted: No-one's getting carried away.
Another double-win week put Jamie Howell’s team second in the league - level on points with leaders Leiston and a place above Havant, the team who signed the Rocks’ top two goalscorers in the summer.
It’s far beyond what the management and fans expected after a close season that saw half a dozen key players depart - but boss Howell ans coach Darin Killpartrick are being careful to keep everyone’s feet on the ground.
With some fans suggesting this season’s squad could turn out to be better than last year’s, let alone neing able to hold their own in a tough division, Howell said everyone was enjoying the superb run of form but would not get carried away.
A note of caution comes with Saturday’s trip to Lowestoft - one of only two sides to beat Bognor in the league this season - which the Rocks will make without several key squad members.
They’re likely to be in action in Suffolk without strikers Jimmy Wild and Jimmy Muitt, midfielders James Fraser and Dan Beck and centre-half Gary Charman. It follows a battling win at Staines on Tuesday night when they suffered more than their fare share of cuts and bruises.
The 2-0 victory in south-west London, courtesy of a Sami El-Abd header and Muitt’s first Rocks goal, came three days after headers by Alex Parsons and Fraser saw off Sudbury at soggy Nyewood Lane.
The six points leave the Rocks level on points with leaders Leiston and a point in front of Havant. Leiston visit Havant on Saturday.
Howell said: “Sudbury was a difficult game. We were excellent in the first half without scoring the goals we should have done. Then you get worried at only 1-0 up and lo and behold they equalised ten minutes from the end. But credit to the lads, they kept on believing and we got the winner.
“At Staines we were lucky not to go behind – they hit the crossbar twice in the first half. But we were creating chances too and as the game went on we knew we had a chance.
“We were beaming on the way home and I’m proud of what the players have achieved in recent games. When players left in the summer, some thought Bognor would sink. We had doubts ourselves but we have brought some new lads in and are delighted with the progress we’ve made.
“But that’s all it is – progress. We’ve played 14 league games and there are 32 to go. A lot can happen in that time. But our points tally has given us a bit of a cushion.
“No-one’s getting away or allowing complacency to come into it. We are in good habits and we have to continue them.”
Coach Killpartrick said: “It’s been a good week but I know how quickly you can fall down the league when things don’t go so well.
“At the start of the season I thought it would be a tough year but I did feel if we could get to Christmas and be in a decent area as we developed the team we’d be okay.
“The team cohesion has been outstanding. We have 16 or 17 players who are all playing for each other with a great spirit. The new players who have come have learned to play to our system very quickly.”
Keeping the momentum going won’t be easy at Lowestoft, who won 3-1 at Bognor on the first day of the season.
Fraser limped off with a dead leg at Staines and Dan Beck is still a week or so away from fitness, which may mean a call into midfield for James Crane.
Charman is 50/50 as he struggles with an ankle injury and Chad Field is on stand-by to replace him.
Wild came off at Staines after a nasty clash of heads while Muitt, who replaced him, ended the night with a long gash up his leg. Both have to be doubtful for this weekend.
It’s now known that utility man Harvey Whyte will be out for another two months or so. He has strained but not torn his cruciate knee ligament and does not need surgery.
Another blow comes with news left-back Dylan Barnett’s loan spell from the Brighton uder-23 set-up is not being extended.
Howell said: “He’s been superb for us but Brighton want to take him back. That’s good for him as he’s shown them what he can do and he says he’s enjoyed it. But we’re sorry to lose him.”
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