Rocks Review: ‘Best display’ followed by squad worries

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Jamie Howell says the Rocks’ performance in their pre-season friendly draw with Havant & Waterlooville was one of their best in the time he and Darin Killpartrick have been in charge.

But he remains concerned the squad’s strength in depth has a long way to go before they are ready for their bid to hold their own in the Ryman premier division.

The bosses believe their strongest XI will do well in the premier – their worry is what happens to the strength of the team when a few regulars are out.

On Sunday they played youth players against county league division-one side Pagham and although they played well, the management felt it showed there was a long way to go before the younger members of the squad can be expected to play the Rocks’ way.

That has got the bosses stepping up their efforts to add to the experience in the ranks.

Ex-Carshalton midfielder Billy Crook impressed in the 1-1 draw at Havant and is one the Rocks are keen on.

They have also been running the rule over former Whyteleafe centre-forward Omar Foulkes and a young centre-half who has been a pro with Southampton, Aaron Raccine.

Howell said if they could recruit those three players, or at least two or three at that level, he’d be happier.

The new faces were being put through their paces in a friendly at Leatherhead last night and may feature again when the Rocks travel to meet Godalming tomorrow.

Their build-up has not been helped by key players missing games through injury, illness or work commitments.

Midfielder Dan Beck has been lost to work duties and Howell said he was unavailable for the forseeable future.

Two other midfielders have been missing – James Crane because of work and Kane Wills because of a bruised foot that will keep him out at least until the Worthing game.

Keeper Craig Stoner has had a chest infection but deputy Tom Boyle has impressed in his place.

Howell said: “It has been an up and down week. We were impressed with how the lads played at Havant. They’re a Conference South side and we bossed them in the first half.

“It was about as well as we’ve played in the time Dabba and I have been running the team.

“But then after the Pagham game, we realised that what we don’t have is any strength in depth.

“Ideally we’d be further forward in having a squad ready, rather than just a team, for the season by this first week of August. But if we can get in the two or three we want, we will be much happier.”

They have been impressed by four youngsters in particular - midfielder Dan Kempson, utility man Doug Tuck, striker Dan Simmonds and wide player Ben Chick.

Steve Harper returned to the fray last night.