Play-offs are in thoughts of young Rocks striker

The Rocks celebrate the late penalty - won by Ollie Pearce - that earned them the points at Thamesmead  Picture by Tommy McMillan

The Rocks celebrate the late penalty - won by Ollie Pearce - that earned them the points at Thamesmead Picture by Tommy McMillan

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Ollie Pearce assessed the Rocks’ play-off chances and declared: “There’s no reason we can’t get there.”

Jamie Howell’s side have won eight of their past ten league games, losing just one in that spell.

The latest success came with a 2-1 win at Thamesmead on Tuesday night and Pearce – the man who won the penalty that Ben Johnson put away to clinch the three points – says there’s no reason the team can’t make a serious stab at a top-five finish.

The Nyewood Lane outfit are seventh in the Ryman premier on 26 points – just a point behind fifth-placed Lewes and seven off leaders Maidstone.

A big test of Bognor’s credentials comes today (Saturday) when their old division one south rivals Dulwich Hamlet – flying high in second place after promotion last spring – visit Nyewood Lane.

Pearce said that as great as the club’s form had been in the league, he was not getting carried away with results just yet, especially as it was still too early in the season to get a clear idea of a realistic finishing spot.

“It’s still early days and although we have done well the past few weeks, it could all go downhill quickly and I think everyone knows that, so we’re definitely not getting to carried away just yet,” said Pearce.

The young forward has enjoyed a spell in which he has started most games and has been scoring goals regularly.

“The season has got better for me. I’m starting more frequently and I have luckily begun to get some goals especially in the past few weeks, so I am happy with how it has gone so far.”

Pearce scored five in three league games at one stage during the recent fine run and was also on target in the 4-1 FA Trophy win over Chippenham on Saturday which put the Rocks through to a third qualifying round tie away to Hayes & Yeading on Sunday week.

Pearce said it was pleasing to be adding to Bognor’s success on the pitch: “It feels good to start scoring and obviously contributing.

“Being a striker, it’s always difficult if you’re not scoring but I think the most important thing is that the team are playing well and scoring goals.

“Luckily everyone has had a little run of scoring and hopefully it will continue.”

Pearce broke into the first team from the youth ranks at Nyewood Lane last season after the team went through a torrid time with injuries.

Since then, he’s become a fans’ favourite and has received numerous man-of-the-match awards. He knows the importance of putting on a good performance for the fans who follow the club through the hills and back.

“It’s a good feeling when the fans applaud your performance. They pay good money to get in and follow us to every game so it’s always important to try to put a good performance in for them,” he said.

With the play-offs at one stage a realistic aim last season for Bognor, the club eventually finished 14th in the table after a slump in results when they picked up injuries.

This season, Pearce feels the team should have no fear in targeting the top five and continuing their fine form.

“Hopefully we can continue this good run and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be aiming for the play-offs,” he said.

“I think last year the injuries killed our chances of getting there, but there’s no reason why it can’t be done this year.”

Being only 18, Pearce revealed that when he first started playing in the first team, it was an experience he found nerve-racking. But as time has passed, it’s a lot more natural to him especially with other youngsters in the fold like Doug Tuck and Dan Kempson, who have also been key players for Bognor.

“Luckily there are a few of us around the same age such as Doug and Dan so it doesn’t feel too bad. To start with it was a nervy experience but now I’m used to it.”

by SAM GARRETT