The Rocks are becoming sick of this season – literally.
A pile of injuries and a downturn in form and goalscoring ability has been followed by a sickness bug sweeping through Nyewood Lane.
Harvey Whyte was ill before Saturday’s home game with Concord Rangers and, though he still played, the winger was below-par compared to his recent fine form.
Now another three players have gone down with the illness, which forced Tuesday night’s regular training session to be cancelled.
The management are hopeful most or all of the victims will be well enough to train tonight and play on Saturday at Margate, where the Rocks need a result to put a woeful run of form behind them.
Last weekend’s 1-0 loss to Concord was the Rocks’ fifth defeat in six games and was the third straight home league match in which they had failed to score.
Manager Jamie Howell said he was becoming increasingly frustrated by results and the lack of entertainment being served up to fans, but he remained confident the tide would turn when key players returned to the team.
Another blow has been a setback in training suffered by centre-half Ben Andrews.
In trying to get fit to return to the fray, he appears to have aggravated his thigh injury – and is now unlikely to be available at Margate.
With Stuart Axten probably out for the season and Louis John back at Crawley, and possibly not coming back to Bognor, it means full-back Daryl Wollers will have to continue as an emergency centre-back alongside Sam Pearce, who is back at the club on loan for a month from Havant.
Howell said the sickness bug was the last thing the club needed in a season plagued by injuries and player departures.
“Harvey was sick about 20 minutes before the game,” Howell said. “He said he was okay to play but he obviously wasn’t anything like 100 per cent, but we didn’t have another natural wide player to replace him.
“Since then Sam Pearce, James Crane and Terry Dodd have all been taken ill. We cancelled training on Tuesday but hope they’ll all be fine for tonight and Saturday.” Former Rocks captain Pearce’s return – which the player described as like coming home – was one of the few high points of the weekend’s defeat, although he blotted a solid second debut by missing a penalty.
Howell said: “We’re delighted to get Sam back and are grateful to Havant & Waterlooville for allowing it. We’re very short at the back and he can be a real leader.”
The Rocks are having a look at a prolific striker from the Wessex League: Simon Woods, who has scored 21 goals for Portchester this season.
He’s set to sign dual registration and although he is not available this weekend, Woods could feature next Tuesday when Canvey Island visit Bognor for a rearranged league game, the first of four home matches in 15 days.
But with the Rocks having to pay a host of contracted players who are out injured, the budget is unlikely to stretch to any more signings.
Instead the focus is on getting the wins they need to stave off any threat of a relegation battle.
Howell said: “I maintain we’re a good team and when we get one or two back, we’ll get results.”
Get the first report from Margate v Rocks on Saturday on this website