Godfrey out, Harris in - and Rocks boss says: Trust me

Ashley Harris on the ball on his Bognor debut  Picture by Tommy McMillan
Ashley Harris on the ball on his Bognor debut Picture by Tommy McMillan

JAMIE HOWELL oversaw more comings and goings at Nyewood Lane - and asked fans to trust him.

Young Pompey striker Ashley Harris has arrived on a month’s loan from Pompey a few days after Ben Godfrey was released in a move that surprised many.

The decision to let Godfrey go drew criticism from some fans, but with the Rocks now in the top four in the Ryman premier, Howell has asked to be judged - and trusted - on his record so far.

Their latest success came in a hard-fought 1-0 win at home to Billericay on Tuesday night, when Harris made his Bognor debut in a game won by Terry Dodd’s 31st goal of the season, a 73rd-minute penalty.

It sets the team up nicely for a week on the road - they visit leaders Dulwich Hamlet on Saturday and go to face Met Police next Tuesday with a play-off place still well within their sights.

With Harris becoming the fourth striker on the club’s books, in addition to Dodd, Ollie Pearce and Dan Thompson, Howell said it made sense to release Godfrey although it was not done lightly.

Godfrey arrived at the Lane only last August but had an immediate impact, scoring seven goals in his first eight games. But after a spell out of the side he struggled to get his place back from the in-form Dodd and has scored only four more goals.

Howell said: “He was a popular player and did well for us. But he had a spell away and Terry came in and made his place his own. Ben needs to play regularly and I couldn’t guarantee him that.

“I’m happy to come out and say decisions like that are down to me - I pick the team and, within the budget, decide who we bring in and release. It’s not also down to Jack (Pearce) or Dabba (Darin Killpartrick) as some have suggested, and I ask people to look at the progress the club have made in the past three years.

“Sometimes there’ll be the need to let a player go who the fans don’t think should go but all I can say is my decisions are made in the best interests of the club. We won’t always be able to talk publicly about everything that goes on with the squad.”

Howell is delighted to recruit 20-year-old Harris, who burst to fame when Pompey were still in the Championship in 2012. His career has stalled somewhat more recently but Howell said his Bognor loan spell - which could run until the season’s end - could benefit club and player.

“He’s not played much football for a while and will take time to settle in and get used to our style of play. But we’re pleased to have him and are grateful to Pompey for allowing it to happen.”

With Ben Johnson looking increasingly likely to miss the rest of the season, Harris gives the Rocks another forward option - as does the Harvey Whyte, who proved his fitness after a long series of injuries with a vibrant display in Tuesday’s win.

Howell said: “He’s been down in the dumps at being out for so long but was excellent against Billericay. He can be a big player for us.”

Work commitments kept defender Craig Robson out of the midweek game and he may still be missing on Saturday, but Howell said the central-defensive partnership of Stuart Axten and Dan Sackman had been superb and he had every faith in them.

Defender Daryl Wollers and midfielder Dan Kempson are being ‘managed’ through injury problems but the management will need the whole squad in the coming weeks. Last Saturday’s washout at Enfield leaves them with 15 league games in 50 days – and that’s without a Sussex Senior Cup semi-final, and possibly the final, to fit in.