AFTER four games in their return to the Ryman premier, the Rocks are unbeaten, have eight points from a possible 12, sit sixth in the table and are exceeding all expectations.
Bank Holiday clashes saw them edge out East Thurrock at Nyewood Lane on Saturday thanks to Ben Johnson’s solitary strike, before Steve Harper’s equaliser earned them a point in a 1-1 draw at Leiston on Monday, where they dominated proceedings.
Their sixth-place position is made even more impressive as they are level on points with third-place Kingstonian, fourth-placed Bury Town and Saturday’s opponents Margate, who occupy fifth.
Combine this with the fact they have conceded just two goals – with only two sides bettering that, leaders Hampton & Richmond Borough and Canvey Island, surely things couldn’t be any better in the Rocks camp?
Their start has made people sit up and take note of the league’s new boys. Joint managers Darin Killpartrick and Jamie Howell, although insisting they are not getting carried away, the latter admits so far the side is exceeding expectations.
Howell said: “Four out of a possible six (points) classifies as a decent weekend for us, maybe if I’m honest with myself then on Saturday a draw would have been a fair result, then on Monday I thought we were good enough for the win so it’s funny the way it works out.
“The most important thing though is that we have the points on the board.
“We have started a lot better than I thought. If we had won all four I think it would be fair to say that wouldn’t be amiss,
“To have people saying you’ve been the better four teams in all games is a very pleasing aspect.
“Although we are playing well I’m not naive enough to get carried away, it’s far too early days.”
The management duo have seen a steady improvement in the sides’ football in just four games, although they want to see a more ruthless streak in front of goal.
Howell added: “Dabba has talked about the first game and how we took a while to get into it and get started at Concord.
“Against East Thurrock I thought we played very well and at Leiston as well, but we need to be a bit more ruthless in front of goal.
“If we had scored early in either game this weekend it would have settle us down and we would have been better, but that is because we are a young side.
“It also shows the level in the premier and that you need to be a bit more ruthless and take your chances when you get them – but we are pleased.
“We are not getting carried away, at the moment I think after 10 games we will see where we are, but to a man we have been excellent, that’s from Craig Stoner in goal, the back four, the whole side have really worked.”
Despite the results coming up trumps, there have been a couple of injury blows incurred – the biggest of all the possibility of losing striker Ashley Robinson for up to six weeks.
The forward is looking likely to need an operation on a cartilage problem that Howell was hoping was avoidable and he could now be out for a month and a half.
Terry Dodd is still suffering from shin splints although it is only stopping him from playing a whole game, while Ben Andrews is also a concern with a back problem.
Robinson although a loss, is not overly concerning for the Rocks management duo as the addition on Mu Mann and Omar Folkes, when combined with Steve Harper and Dodd means they have multiple attacking options.
“Terry’s shin splints are still giving him a few problems and he can only play for 60 minutes or so,” Howell said.
“A big blow is Ashley Robinson is looking as though he needs an operation on a cartilage problem.
“It’s a blow, but we have strength in depth and other players that are very capable.”
Rocks host fellow seasiders Margate on Saturday and Howell is under no illusion that they’ll be in for another tough afternoon at the Nye Camp.
He added: “They are going to be a good team, they are well fancied and will be in the promotion talk and up there.
“We are expecting are good side, but we are looking forward to the test and a really good game.”