Darin Killpartrick says the Rocks are adapting well to new formations and a new level of tactical awareness needed to succeed at their new higher level.
But he is warning players and fans not to get carried away by a mini-revival which has seen the team win two and draw two – with the latest two games combining to earn them a place in the first round of the FA Trophy.
Ibra Sekajja was the goal hero, scoring the equaliser in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Hemel Hempstead in the third qualifying round then getting the only strike of Tuesday night’s replay at Nyewood Lane.
The win earned the Rocks £5,000 – and they can take their winnings up another £6,000 if they win away to Southern League premier-division side Taunton Town in the next round on Saturday, December 16.
Before then the Rocks face losing key centre-half Sami El-Abd for three games after he was red-carded late in the replay for violent conduct – after getting involved with a Hemel player immediately after another had been sent off. His ban is likely to start on December 9.
As big a talking point as Sekajja’s form in front of goal is the new formations that are starting to help the Rocks get results. They’ve tried a diamond formation and now, following the signing of England C international defender Keaton Wood, are experimenting with three at the back plus wing-backs.
Killpartrick said it was all about adapting to life at National League South level, which he said was very different to standards seen at Isthmian League level.
He said the players and coaching staff were working extremely hard on the training pitch to make new formations work. Equally, he is urging caution about more tough matches to come.
“At Hemel on Saturday we were the better team in the second half and could have won it. The replay was very, very tactical – in fact both games were.
“It’s the biggest tactical test I’ve known in two or three years, probably. It keeps you on your toes and it’s an aspect of the game we will see more and more at this level.
“We’ve tried a couple of new formations now. What we have to do is use the players to fit the formation, not the other way round. It’s early days but it’s encouraging.
“I’m not getting excited by a couple of good results, though – no-one should be.”
Killpartrick praised the whole team for their efforts but singled out Sekajja and spoke of the importance of bringing former Millwall youngster Wood to the club.
“Ibra is doing well anbd is a good pro. He trains hard and really cares about the team’s performance,” Killpartrick said.
“Keaton is an outstanding player. He’s played 90 games for Dartford in the National League, which is just the sort of experience we need. He’s only 21 and is a great pro.”
The Rocks return to National League South action this Saturday at home to Concord – so it’s 21st v 18th, a huge clash between two of five sides battling to escape the top two relegation spots.
Killpartrick said: “It’s a massive game and we need to be at our best again and need all our supporters right behind us again.
“It’s a real shame Sami will now have another ban coming up – that’s just another problem we could do without.”