The Rocks’ drawn-out search for a striker goes on – and Jack Pearce says they could be pushing for the National League South play-offs if they could find one.
The Nyewood Lane boss has spoken of his frustration that he is failing to solve their goal shortage by landing the marksman that could add that bit of quality the hard-working squad needs.
He made 30 phone calls on Tuesday alone to try to find the missing piece of the Rocks jigsaw while the club revealed they had made serious enquiries about ten different forwards – all to no avail.
It comes as the Rocks reflect on a battling performance against Leyton Orient in the FA Trophy in which they pushed the former Football League side all the way with the help of a Jimmy Muitt wonder-strike before an extra-time 2-1 defeat.
Players, management and fans have all taken great heart from the performance but know they now have to turn it into goals and victories in the league – starting at home to Wealdstone this Saturday.
The Rocks have 17 games to save themselves but are six points from safety.
Pearce said it was another committed performance from the team against Orient but admitted fine displays were no good if they kept ending in defeat.
He said: “I’ve taken a lot from the past five or so home games. Unfortunately we’ve lost or drawn them when we should have done better.
“I’ve been in this game a long time and I’ve never known a group of players work as hard as they do and get beaten. I know what teams are like who get beaten on a regular basis and it’s normally when there’s not a good atmosphere in the dressing room or there’s a few prima donnas – but I haven’t got any of that.
“The players are really grafting and there’s a superb atmosphere in the club but when you keep losing and keep looking at the league table it’s depressing.
“But we’ve just got to go again. We’ve got 17 games left in the league and we’ll have to work just as hard. We need to get some of our injured players fit and we need to sign a couple of players – and that team, in my opinion, could be a team that could go for top six, easily. It’s not that far away, though I realise some people may be surprised to hear me say that.
“We’ve been playing like that (the Orient performance) in our league but we can’t score. If you look at the goal we scored it’s a worldie. You don’t get goals like that every week. We can’t get tap-ins.”
The Rocks said they had looked at ten strikers who they had enquired about or discounted after watching in recent weeks. Secretary Simon Cook said: “Sadly those the club were interested in signing were either too expensive or were put off by the travelling. While the club will not be forced into an inappropriate signing, efforts will continue this coming week.”
Coach Darin Killpartrick said: “I was extremely proud but the result was very difficult to swallow. I thought we were the better team and I think the whole crowd knew it.
“I’m not shocked with how we played. I’ve watched them train, I know what they do and I know what they’re capable of.
“But we need an out-and-out striker that can score goals, there’s no hiding that.
“We just lack the cutting edge up front. Jimmy (Muitt) and Ibra (Sekajji) are looking really exciting, we’re working hard with them. They’re getting better and into positions they need to to score goals and the midfield will need to chip in with their fair share too.”
There is one in and one out of the midfield ranks.
Frenchman Richard Gilot, 21, who has played for Le Havre and US Quevilly-Rouen, made an impressive debut against Orient which was cut short by a red card for two bookings.
Pearce said: “Richard has come to England to try to earn a contract with a club higher up the league pyramid than us, but we have agreed Richard would play for us for the foreseeable future.
“Saturday was a challenging match in which to make a first appearance for the club, and we were delighted to see signs of what Richard might be capable of. The double booking was unfortunate – whilst there can be no argument with the second yellow card, video evidence shows the first to be what we felt to be a strong, but fair tackle.”
Another midfielder, Joe Lea, has joined Gosport Borough after finding first-team chances limited at Bognor.
Pearce said he was a technically-gifted player the rocks would continue to keep an eye on but perhaps lacked the physicaility needed in National South. He added: “The club would like to put on record their appreciation of Joe’s commitment and dedication during his time at Nyewood Lane. Despite not getting much playing time, Joe was unfailing in his commitment to the club and his cheerful and friendly personality will be missed.”
Gilot and forward Ben Swallow are both banned for the Wealdstone game – it will be the second of three games out for Swallow while Gilot is only out this week.
Midfielder Tommy Block has been on trial with Championship side Sunderland this week but is expected to be available for Bognor on Saturday, while defenders James Crane, Keaton Wood and Corey Heath and striker Ollie Pearce all remain injured. Wood should be fit for Saturday week’s trip to Hungerford.