Bognor duo on way back - but injury curse strikes again
The Rocks have had good news and bad as they prepare for another big two tests of their promotion hopes.
They have seen defensive duo Calvin Davies and Keaton Wood return to light training – but have now lost striker Jimmy Wild to injury.
It’s typical of their injury-plagued season that positive news is accompanied by another setback, with Wild hurting his knee on the same night Davies and Wood showed they were well on their way back to full fitness.
It’s not yet known how long Wild will be out, but with the week-to-week availability of Pompey loan forwards Dan Smith and Brad Lethbridge still very shaky, it could leave manager Jack Pearce and coach Robbie Blake short of striking options.
Smith, Lethbridge and Wild have all taken turns in recent games supporting 27-goal Jimmy Muitt up front but the hotshot must be wondeering who his next forward partner will be.
At least the imminent return of right-back Davies and centre-half Wood – two automatic choices when fit – will boost Bognor’s options.
Bognor’s recent good form continued on Saturday when they hit back from being 1-0 down at Corinthisn Casuals to win 3-1, with a goal from sub Tommy Scutt and a double, one from the sport, by Muitt.
Saturday brings seventh-placed Tonbridge Angels to Nyewood Lane while another in-form side - Merstham - entertain the Rocks next Wednesday.
Coach Blake was delighted by the way the team turned the game around against Casuals – and repeated his view that on their day, Bognor were a match for anyone in the league.
He picked out skipper Harvery Whyte for special praise for the way he had led the team on the pitch in recent outings.
Blake accepted the first-half display at Corinthian Casuals was below par but said: “Apart from the horrible goal we conceded, after that I thought we finished the half stronger.
“For their goal, Dan (Lincoln) got to save it – he knows that. But I said to him at half-time, when a keeper makes a mistake it’s a goal. But he made a great save when their lad was clean through. That was a match-winning save even though we were 1-0 down at the time. If you go 2-0 down before half-time it’s a tough task to get back into it.
“Dan should have saved it but he’s made a lot of great saves recently and has done really well.
“We regrouped at half-time, made a change and in the second half I thought we were good value.
“We brought off Macca (Josh McCormick), put Tommy on in midfield and gave Harvey licence to get forward from wing-back.
“We played three at the back which I thought made us stronger, with Richard Gilot sat in front protecting, and that allowed us to get high and wide and Harvey did that well.
“We showed enough grit and determination in the second half. I said to them at half-time that we would score and once we got the goal we would go on and win the game 2-1 or 3-1. So that was pleasing.”
Why Rocks fans are keeping an eye on FA Cup replaysWin takes Bognor back into top five - picture special and post-match interviewBlake was pleased the introduction of Scutt added new life to the Rocks’ play. “As a coach you have to make those decisions and make them with conviction. At half-time I thought we had to get Tommy on and playing higher up, and with the width we had, Harvey’s very good at getting wide from deeper positions.
“He’s been a great captain and servant since I’ve been here and he’s shown that again, he’s stood up and been counted, like everybody has.
“It’s good when you’ve got the skipper on your side like that.”
Rocks fans have been pleased to see injured Davies at recent games cheering on his team-mates as he awaits his return to fitness, and Blake said that was a sign of the great spirit in the camp.
“It’s fantastic. We haven’t got a bad lad. We’ve got people pulling in the right direction. Sometimes we’ve made mistakes but we’ve got a good team spirit, a really good team full of quality, and once we’ve got everyone here (fit) we are a match for everybody,” said the former Bradford and Burnley striker.
“Corinthian Casuals is a difficult place to come, so from 1-0 down, to win 3-1 shows the lads’ willingness to do well for the football club.”
Blake felt the Rocks’ penalty – for a foul on Muitt, and converted by Muitt himself – was stonewall one. That put them 2-1 up with 30 minutes to play, though it was not until stoppage time that they got a third.
“There was a lot of hostility in the game but they didn’t even appeal that it wasn’t a penalty,” Blake said.
“I said to the lads afterwards that good teams, and teams that want to do something and be successful at the end of the seaon, score that third goal ten minutes earlier. They (Corinthian) were pushing men forward. We need that bit of composure and knowhow to unlock teams.”
Blake enjoyed Doug Tuck’s part in the Rocks’ third and said: “There’s nobody in and around the final third who makes a pass as well as Doug in the league. Jimmy’s put it away - and Jimmy’s on fire.”
The win took the Rocks back into the top five but Blake said: “Regardless of the league table, which is obviously important, the main thing is that we got the three points.
“It’s just disappointing we didn’t see out the Potters Bar game the previous week because we’d be in a better position, but last Tuesday night (when the
Rocks beat East Grinstead in the Sussex Senior Cup) and Saturday, the lads have been different class. They’ve shown character and great togetherness and that’s why we’ve got over the line.”
Seventh-placed Tonbridge bring another stiff test for Bognor’s promotion credentials, and with the sides from third to 15th separated by just ten points there’s no room for slip-ups.
Blake said: “Tonbridge have just beaten Haringey so it will be a tough game. Everybody’s beating everybody but we have to be on the front foot – and once we play on the front foot and play our football we fear nobody.
“When we’re on it and have the right attitude I wouldn’t want to be in anyone’s dressing room apart from ours.”
Get a report from Rocks v Tonbridge on the whistle on this website