The Rocks have been ordered: No Christmas presents for the opposition please.
Defensive frailities have come to the fore in the team’s Ryman premier campaign and the bosses are alarmed at the number of easy goals their opponents are scoring.
They have put in extra hours this week – including video analysis of what’s going wrong – in an effort to tighten up at the back and get their play-off bid back on track.
Saturday’s 3-1 home defeat to Wealdstone was their third defeat in four games and they have let in 13 goals in those games. Before that, they’d conceded only 24 in their first 18 league games.
Manager Jamie Howell and coach Darin Killpartrick want them to regain pride in keeping clean sheets, rather than thinking if they let in one, they’ll have to go and score two – something proving not-so-easy against the top teams.
The Rocks will put their defensive qualities on the line on Saturday at Grays – who won 3-0 at Nyewood Lane on the first day of the season – then on Boxing Day at home to Lewes.
Howell said: “The number of goals we’re letting in has become a problem. It’s not just down to the defence and keeper, it’s the whole team.
“We have the wrong mentality about it at the moment – we’re not making teams work hard to score.
“Against Wealdstone, one of the best teams in the league, we were in charge for 20 minutes, then we went and gave the ball away in our half and a few seconds later they were one up.
“We have to work harder to recover from mistakes. The frustating thing is we’d be beating even the top teams if we weren’t making mistakes.”
The players have been sat down and made to watch videos of their shortcomings.
Killpartrick praised the work of video analyst Sian Elliott in producing the footage they hope will enable them to turn the corner. He said: “We are gifting goals to teams – they’re not having to carve out chances.
“We did a lot of work on it at training on Tuesday night. Sian’s video work is fantastic and gives us footage the whole team need to learn from.”
The Rocks head into their three festive matches in eight days – they also go to Carshalton on Saturday week – still short of some key players and keen to bolster their squad.
Winger Ben Johnson had a scan on his injured knee on Monday and the results are imminent. Johnson and the whole club are hoping it’s not a serious cruciate ligament injury that would rule him out for the season, but instead a problem that will see him on the sidelines for only a few weeks.
Midfielder/winger Harvey Whyte is nearing fitness after a long-standing thigh problem but won’t be risked until the new year, while left-back Daryl Wollers is no nearer knowing when he can have a long-awaited groin operation.
Howell revealed defender Paul Hinshelwood and winger Arron Hopkinson had both picked up calf strains but should be okay for the trip to Grays.
Another defender, Louis John, has had his loan from Crawley extended until mid-January.
John has been out with a hamstring strain but should be available for the 3pm Boxing Day clash with Lewes.
* The Rocks are celebrating after winning the team of the year award at the Observer Community Awards for the second year running.
Coach Darin Killpartrick was at the Butlin’s ceremony to receive the award and said: “It was a great night and the Observer does so well with the event. We were humbled and delighted to win the award.”
* See next week’s Observer – out on Christmas Eve – for a full preview of the Lewes and Carshalton games.