The Rocks hope to make up for their early FA Trophy exit with an extended run in the Sussex Senior Cup and a sustained bid for promotion.
In contrast to last season’s glorious run to the semi-finals, Bognor crashed out of the Trophy at the first hurdle when they were well beaten 4-1 at Slough at the weekend.
Coming after a relatively-early exit from this season’s FA Cup, it was a disappointment for fans who so enjoyed last year’s adventures.
But the upside is it leaves Jamie Howell, Darin Killpartrick and their squad free to concentrate on their Ryman premier ambitions and the county cup without the worry of a major fixture backlog like the one that hit the end of the 2015-16 campaign.
They began their senior cup campaign with a 7-0 hammering of Southern Combination side Southwick on Tuesday night, when a number of players made good comebacks from injuries and the likes of defender Fintan Walsh and midfielder Will Robinson got the run-outs they deserved for their commitment shown in training.
Howell was disappointed by the loss at Slough and said: “We didn’t deserve to win – we couldn’t deal with their pace and power. To go there with a full-strength team would be difficult but we were missing a few.
“When we got it back to 2-1 we were optimistic but then to have Darren Budd sent off, which we had no arguments with, and to concede just before half-time killed us.
“We put in the effort second-half but can’t complain at going out. It’s disappointing after last year’s run but you’re not going to get to the semi-finals or anything close to them every year.
“It leaves the senior cup as our only knockout competition and that’s one we will always take seriously and try to win.
“It was nice to get through against Southwick and I was delighted with our attitude and work-rate. That sort of game can become tricky if you don’t approach them in the correct way.
“So while it is a shame we have gone out of the Trophy early, it does mean we can focus clearly on the two competitions we have to fight for.”
Tuesday’s 7-0 win featured two goals in a 70-minute appearance from striker Jimmy Muitt, who continues to build confidence and fitness, while right-back Calvin Davies and forward Jimmy Wild both proved their fitness after illness and injury respectively.
Budd is likely to be banned for three games for his red card at Slough but another midfielder, Dan Beck, is almost over a hip flexor problem and could feature at home to Wingate and Finchley on Saturday.
Winger Alex Parsons may not be over his hamstring problem by this weekend, while young Brighton loan striker Thomas Byrne is away on Irish international duty this week.
Utility man Harvey Whyte is stepping up his recovery from knee damage but does not have a definite return date pencilled in yet.
Howell praised Walsh and Robinson for the attitude and patience they had shown in waiting for game time.
“In an age when a lot of young players annoy me, their approach has been a breath of fresh air,” Howell said. “They both did well against Southwick and they will get other chances to show what they can do.”
The Rocks sit nicely in third place ahead of the visit of mid-table Wingate but Howell said it would be a tough game.
“They won 4-1 at Worthing in September so while they may have been a little inconsistent, they clearly carry a threat.”
After Saturday, the Rocks will have ten days without a game. Their scheduled opponents on Saturday week were league leaders Needham Market but they are still in the FA Trophy, so their Nyewood Lane visit has been put back to Tuesday, December 20.
Bognor visit Hendon on Tuesday, November 15, and did try to bring that game forward to Saturday 12 but Hendon want to play a county cup game on that date.
* The Rocks’ popular annual fireworks display takes place this Sunday. Gates open at 6pm and it’s £5 to get in, with under-fives free.
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