The Rocks will aim to put their play-off woe behind them by lifting the Sussex Senior Cup - and their captain could get an even bigger boost to put the disappointment in the past.
Kane Wills’ consistent displays in the Bognor midfield again this season have earned him a trial with Championship side Reading. And his manager thinks even if that doesn’t come off, he will soon be playing at a higher level than the Ryman premier.
Wills led his team into last Wednesday’s play-off semi-final against Lowestoft in front of a crowd of more than 1,000 at Nyewood Lane, but it ended in defeat as a tired and nervous-looking Bognor missed out on a one-off final offering promotion to the Skrill South.
Their Suffolk visitors went on to claim promotion after following their 2-1 win at Bognor with a 3-0 victory at home to AFC Hornchurch, leaving the Rocks to regroup for another stab at Ryman premier glory next season.
But one man who may not be part of things next season is Wills, who is set for a chance to prove himself at the Madejski Stadium.
Wills had been pencilled in to train with them this week but missing out on the final Championship play-off spot to Brighton has seen their season end abruptly. He’s now likely to join up with them at a later date.
Rocks manager Jamie Howell said: “Although we’d be upset to lose Kane, it could be a great opportunity for him. He had a trial at Crawley last summer but that didn’t come to anything, but it’s no surprise to see another Football League club come and show interest.
“He’s been excellent for us and works so hard to improve his game. We wish him well. I wouldn’t be at all surprise to see him get a chance somewhere, even if it’s not at Reading. If it doesn’t work out, we’d be delighted to see him back with us next season.”
Howell said Wills’ progress could help attract good young players to Nyewood Lane. “If they see that playing and doing well at Bognor can give you a chance in the professional game, they will regard this as a good club to join for career development,” he said.
Bognor will need a major look at the strength of the squad, which was stretched to the limit in the fixture-packed final weeks of the season, but for now their focus is on Sunday week’s county cup final against new Ryman premier members Peacehaven at Brighton’s Amex Stadium.
They’ll be without suspended duo Dan Thompson and Ben Johnson - the latter having been sent off towards the end of the play-off loss – but hope to welcome back midfielder Sammy Igoe, who could yet get his hands on a medal this season after being snubbed for Gosport Borough’s FA Trophy final at Wembley.
Howell said it was nice to have another game and shot at glory after defeat in the play-offs, in which he admitted his side were second best.
“It was frustrating because with a full-strength side, we could have had a really good go at the play-offs. But the past few weeks have left us depleted and a bit jaded and it certainly showed.
“The play-offs are a lottery. We’ve been lucky enough to be in three of them in four seasons and we were successful in one of those. We had nine players unavailable last Wednesday but even when everything is right, you still need a little luck.”