Reading winger joins Rocks as Johnson faces lengthy lay-off

Ben Johnson in action at Harrow before his new injury blow
Ben Johnson in action at Harrow before his new injury blow
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THE ROCKS fear Ben Johnson is facing another lengthy spell on the sidelines with a recurrence of the serious knee injury that kept him out for a year.

Johnson hurt himself in Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Harrow and is now waiting for swelling to lessen so he can have a scan.

That is likely to take place early next week but the Rocks management and medical staff fear the worst.

The winger ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in September last year and was not fit to return to the team until a year later. It is the same he has injured and if it is the same problem, he is likely to be out for a similar length of time.

They have moved fast to bring in another wideman - they have welcomed to the Lane Shepherd Murombedzi, who has joined on a month’s loan from Reading.

Shepherd, born in Zimbabwe, is equally comfortable on either flank and has already demonstrated an eye for goal while playing for Reading’s Academy and under-21s. He is likely to play in Saturday’s home game with Margate.

Johnson has been pivotal to the team’s fine form this season and manager Jamie Howell said: “At the moment the feeling is that it’s his cruciate.

“We won’t know for sure until he can have a scan but that’s the theory at the moment.

“If our fears are confirmed it’s a massive blow for the team, the club and of course Ben himself. We always felt confident we could do well with him back and fit, and he’s been brilliant again for us. Now we may well have to look for someone else who can do the same thing for us.”

The Rocks missed Johnson’s creativity in Tuesday night’s 2-1 home defeat to Maidstone – a game which Johnson, injured pair Harvey Whyte and Daryl Wollers and suspended duo Craig Robson and Arron Hopkinson all watched from the stand.

Robson and Hopkinson are available again on Saturday but Whyte and Wollers will still be missing. Full-back Wollers is a long-term casualty with a groin problem that’s awaiting surgery while Whyte’s thigh injury is taking much longer to clear than the club expected.

Howell said the injury and suepnsion problems, added to a defeat in which the Stones were presented with their two goals, had made it a hugely-frustrating week.

“I’m extremely frustrated and that’s down to a bit of everything,” he said.

“We’re sixth in the table but you can’t help looking back at games where we’ve dropped points and thinking ‘Should we be top?’ I get tired of hearing people say we’ve been the best team they’ve played and we’ve had good possession and we’ve passed it well.

“I don’t want us to be pretty little Bognor in mid-table – I want us to push on and achieve things. And we need everyone to want the same and believe we can keep on getting better.”

The Rocks have been prolific at home this season, scoring 52 goals in 13 Nyewood Lane run-outs before Maidstone’s visit. But Howell and coach Darin Killpartrick felt the ability to be clinical deserted them at just the wrong time.

Terry Dodd and Ollie Pearce – who have both been scoring regularly all season – both missed decent chances to punish the Kent visitors and it was left to skipper Kane Wills to show them how it should be done with what proved no more than a second-half consolation.

Similarly, at the back, Killpartrick was disappointed that where Maidstone made the Rocks work hard for their one goal, the visitors scored twice through generous defending.

Keeper Mark Zawadski gifted them the opener by aiming an air-kick at a back pass, leaving Rory Hill with a tap-in, while the second came from Paul Hinshelwood losing his man at a corner.

Both players have been excellent for the Rocks of late and are being told to put their mistakes to their back of their minds

Killpartrick said: “The first goal was unbelievable but both were gifts.

“It’s frustrating but at the moment the difference between us and the teams above us in the league is not how we’re playing but how many mistakes we’re making, and how few teams like Maidstone make.”

It was Bognor’s first home league defeat since August 20.

At Harrow on Saturday, the Rocks had 13 corners to the home side’s four but had to settle for a 0-0 draw.

Margate arrive on Saturday in ninth place in the table, while next Tuesday brings a long trip to Leiston.

Dan Kempson and Scott Chamberlain played 45 minutes each in midfield against Maidstone and both showed positive signs as they bid to earn a starting spot.

STEVE BONE