Defeats show Rocks boss there’s hard work ahead

Harvey Whyte celebrates scoring the opener against Dulwich / Picture by Tim Hale
Harvey Whyte celebrates scoring the opener against Dulwich / Picture by Tim Hale

JAMIE HOWELL says back-to-back Ryman premier defeats have shown the Rocks they have a long way to go to achieve success this season.

They lost 3-2 at home to Dulwich in Saturday’s second-versus-first clash at Nyewood Lane and surprisingly went down by the same score at Merstham on Tuesday night.

For me, these defeats have shown how much work there is to do.

It is a double setback after a run of six straight wins and Howell said it provided proof they were by no means the finished article.

He plans one or two changes to the squad to freshen things up and has called on his players to be more ruthless in taking chances in front of goal.

Bognor scored first and last against Dulwich through Harvey Whyte and Snorre Nilsen, but the league leaders netted three times in between.

The Rocks defence was breached three more times in Surrey in midweek, when Howell’s men blew a 2-1 lead with 13 minutes left to come home pointless.

They will aim to get back to winning ways when they play their fourth game this season against higher-league opposition on Saturday – they are at home to National League South side Bath City in the third qualifying round of the FA Trophy.

They will head into that game without injured pair Dan Beck and Alex Parsons but should have strikers Jason Prior and Chike Kandi available despite both limping off late on at Merstham.

Howell was disappointed by the week’s two defeats and said he hoped it would show the need for his team to be more clinical.

“We could and should have got something from both games,” said Howell.

“Against Dulwich we knew we were up against an excellent team, but we went 1-0 up and missed a very good opening to make it 2-0.

“In some games this season we have been ruthless in front of goal – such as the Canvey game the other week.

“But it’s against the very top teams that you really need to make the chances count. Having said that, I can’t be too harsh on our strikers because we’ve conceded three goals, and you can’t often do that and win.”

Howell felt Dulwich came to the south coast more prepared and up for the challenge of a big game that Bognor, as a club, were on the day.

At Merstham the Rocks were in control for long periods, but couldn’t find the third goal that would have killed off the hosts – and paid the price as a double substitution lifted the Surrey team and they scored twice in a few minutes.

“It’s a worry that we seem unable to finish off teams in that situation,” Howell said.

“We’d played well and got ourselves in control of the game but couldn’t get a third, and at 2-1 up away from home you are always going to be vulnerable. So it proved.

“Even at 3-2 down we had three really good chances to save a point but wasted them.

“For me, these defeats have shown how much work there is to do.

“I think the squad needs a little bit of a shake-up –if that is what is needed to keep us winning and flying high, that’s what I’ll do.

“It’s one thing getting to the position we have got ourselves into this season, it’s another thing keeping it going.”

Howell said the visit of Bath City – who sit tenth in National League South – was the perfect game in which the Rocks could show they could do better than in the past two outings.

Bognor have already beaten sides from National North and South in the FA Cup – Oxford City and Lowestoft –while pushing another NS team, Wealdstone, all the way before losing 2-1 in the FA Cup fourth qualifying round.

“We’ve generally acquitted ourselves well against higher opposition so far this season and we need to aim for those same standards on Saturday.

“We’ve gone through two rounds of the Trophy and don’t want to stop yet.”

The winners of Saturday’s tie will get £4,000 and a place in the first round.

Howell will review the selection options open to him but is hopeful Prior and Kandi will be over the minor niggles that forced them off at Merstham.

Beck is still a couple of weeks away from recovering from a knee injury while Parsons is still troubled by his hamstring.

The Rocks once again borrowed full-back Mark Knee from Horsham in midweek and he acquitted himself well.

Howell would like to bring in one or two new faces but knows the budget is tight and others could have to go to make that happen.

The Rocks’ congested fixture list has been eased a little. Next Tuesday’s league visit to Hampton & Richmond has been put back to December 15 because the Beavers are in county cup action.

But the Rocks will be in action on Tuesday, December 8 – the date set for their Sussex Senior Cup third-round visit to Eastbourne Town.

STEVE BONE

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