Run of wins can keep pressure off in-form Rocks

Rocks boss Jamie Howell praised his hard-working players for a ‘perfect’ week and told them: We can keep the pressure off ourselves by carrying on the run.

Bognor won 3-1 away to fierce rivals Dulwich Hamlet on Saturday and followed it with a solid 2-0 home win against a talented Merstham side on Tuesday night.

The double left the team fourth in the table - part of a top five who have a five-point gap over the chasing pack. But Howell said it was important the players didn’t rest on their laurels, with sixth-placed AFC Sudbury, in flying form after promotion, visiting the Lane on Saturday.

James Fraser and Ollie Pearce were on target in both games while James Crane’s late penalty ensured the win at Dulwich, which helped banish memories of the south London side’s play-off semi-final win over Bognor last April.

New goalkeeper Dan Lincoln has done well in both games and is seen as a key addition as Bognor set about another promotion bid.

Howell said it had been a pleasing week. “I was delighted by both results and both performances. I couldn’t really have asked for more from the players over the two games,” he said.

A chance gores begging against Merstham but it all came good for the Rocks later

A chance gores begging against Merstham but it all came good for the Rocks later

“We’ve been working hard in training and at the moment we are turning it into very good performances on a matchday. There’s a lot of unselfish work going on from players which fans don’t always see but is key to winning games.”

The manager confessed he hadn’t expected the team to be in the play-off places when the season started amid worries over how they’d cope following the departure of big players like Jason Prior, Craig Robson, Grant Smith and Alfie Rutherford.

“We’ve done much better than I expected. I thought we’d be more inconsistent and even that we could be struggling near the bottom. To be where we are at this stage is brilliant. Can we stay there? That is harder but we are playing well.

“There are a lot of tough games coming up but this start has given us the chance to have a blip and then be able to get over it quickly and still be in the pack. It takes a bit of the pressure off, but the table can soon change.”

There are a lot of tough games coming up but this start has given us the chance to have a blip and then be able to get over it quickly and still be in the pack.

Jamie Howell

Howell revealed former keeper Smith, last year’s fans’ player of the season, was to thank for ex-Reading stopper Lincoln’s arrival at Bognor.

“Grant recommended him,” Howell said. “He rang us and said he knew of this good young keeper who wasn’t playing much. We’re delighted to sign him. He’s big and confident and his distribution is very good.”

Lincoln signed last Thursday after the Rocks let Billy Granger moved on. Granger has been having trials with Crystal Palace and the distance he lived from Bognor, and the fact he was not training with the Rocks, meant it did not work out.

Howell is happy with the strength of his squad, though he is set to be without midfield maestro Dan Beck for a week or two after the club stalwart suffered a hip flexor problem in the Merstham win.

Darren Budd and James Crane are vying to replace him.

Striker Thomas Byrne is back in training with Brighton after a similar hip injury and could return to the Rocks team soon, but there is still no news on how long Harvey Whyte’s knee injury will keep him out.

Sudbury’s visit on Saturday will be their first meeting with the Rocks since knocking Howell’s team out of the FA Trophy in a Suffolk replay two years ago.

The Rocks are away to Staines next Tuesday.

STEVE BONE

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