Rocks go from one extreme to the other - but must keep feet on floor

Action from the Rocks' 5-0 win over Canvey Island  Picture by Louise Adams
Action from the Rocks' 5-0 win over Canvey Island Picture by Louise Adams

THE ROCKS have gone from one extreme to the other in a fortnight - and manager Jamie Howell says his big test now is keeping them on an even keel.

Two wins and a draw - plus eight goals scored - from their past three games have banished the memory of a wretched start to the season that saw them take just one point from the first 12 available.

Saturday’s 5-0 hammering of Canvey Island - who were one of the strongest teams in the Ryman premier last season - was comfortably the high spot of the Rocks’ season so far.

And the icing on the cake was a 15-minute cameo after a year out injured from winger Ben Johnson, who capped an energetic display off the bench with the fifth goal.

His return and goals from all over the team have given the club and their fans renewed confidence they can push for honours this season.

But Howell is warning that just as the poor start was not the end of the world, the past three results did not mean they had suddenly solved all their problems.

He said: “Beating Canvey Island 5-0 was a great day at the office and I was delighted by the performance, the goals and another clean sheet.

“We started well and got a couple of early goals, which can make all the difference. We built on that start and had the game won well before the end, which meant it was an easy decision to send Ben on for the final stages.”

Johnson looked hungrier than ever to perform when he came on, showing no ill effects from the anterior cruciate ligament injury that has kept him out for a year.

Howell is pleased to have him back but plans to manage his comeback carefully: “He won’t start at Billericay - he’ll probably be on the bench again,” said the boss.

“He’s desperate to be involved but we don’t want to expect too much too soon. We have options and don’t need to play him in every game for 90 minutes. We have to manage him properly.

“But it was great to see him out there again and the fans gave him a fantastic reception. You only had to watch him for a few minutes to be reminded of what we’ve missed while he’s been out.”

The Rocks are also buoyant over the impression two new boys are making - full-back Alex Malins, on loan from Crawley, who slotted beautifully into the defence, and ex-Lewes striker Ben Godfrey, who has scored two goals in four games and looks to be improving game by game.

In addition, the midfield pairing of Kane Wills and Doug Tuck are settling into a rhythm - one that is allowing Wills new freedom to get forward, which has seen him score in each of the past three games.

And in Craig Robson, the Rocks have found a new threat from set-pieces: he has buried three headers from corners so far.

But Howell said the team had achieved little yet. “I never get too carried away by a bad run, and the same goes for a good run,” he said.

“While we were concerned after our first few games, it wasn’t a case of season-over - and now we have strung some good results together, we mustn’t go thinking we are the finished product.

“It’s a dog-eat-dog league and you can just as easily lose a couple of games you expect to win as win a couple you expect to lose.”

The Rocks have a week on the road ahead of them. They go to 16th-placed Billericay on Saturday and leaders Kingstonian on Monday - then head to Somerset for an FA Cup first qualifying round clash with Frome on Saturday week.

They remain in the hunt for additions to the squad and one ex-Rock who has been training with them is striker Omar Foulkes. He has been without a club this season and is with the Rocks to build up his fitness, with a view to a possible deal longer-term.

Daryl Wollers is still waiting for a date for his groin op and can only play about 60 minutes of a match in the meantime, but another recently-injured pair - James Crane and Dan Kempson - are both approaching full fitness.

STEVE BONE