Rocks Review: Key man Johnson could be out for season

BEN Johnson could be ruled out for the season. That’s the fear as the Rocks – and Johnson – wait nervously to discover the extent of a knee injury that saw the two-goal hero limp out of Saturday’s FA Cup win over Epsom & Ewell.

The winger – such a key player the club’s success over the past two years – can put weight on the knee but can’t straighten it properly and has swelling.

He has had an X-ray and will now have an MRI scan ahead of an appointment with a specialist within the next couple of weeks.

The best hope is that it is cartilage damage, which itself could keep him out for around six weeks. That’s the same injury that’s caused striker Ashley Robinson to need surgery which will keep him out until at least the end of October.

But Rocks manager Jamie Howell said the worst-case scenario was that it was Johnson’s cruciate ligament.

If it is, he is looking at six months or more out and may not feature again this season.

Howell said: “We don’t know the extent of it yet. Our physios have had a look and say you can’t tell without an MRI scan. We’ll get that done before Ben sees a specialist who should then be able to carry out a full assessment.

“We will hope for the best but you always fear the worst with these injuries. We’re just hoping it’s not his cruciate.”

Johnson suffered the injury as he challenged an Epsom defender and the goalkeeper for a loose ball after he’d had a shot saved in the 4-0 victory. The irony is he’d already scored two goals in the first half, strikes which had effectively won the game.

On top of Robinson’s absence, the loss of Johnson – who has had a hand in more Rocks goals than anyone over the past two seasons – leaves the squad short of another quality player.

Howell said at the moment they planned to carry on with the players they had, although were not closed to the idea of bringing in someone on loan.

He said: “Ben’s been excellent for us for a long time now and it’s a big blow.

“The club haven’t the finances to keep covering unexpected problems like this. You can’t just go out and bring in another player and another player each time one gets injured.

“The frustrating thing is we don’t feel we’re a million miles away from making a real challenge in the league we’re in now, but when you lose key players like this it leaves a big hole.”

Steve Harper and Lewis Stockford are two players who could give the team extra width while Johnson is out, although Harper is already on stand-by to cover for the stretched forward line.

Worries also remain over a lack of cover at the back. Left-back Darryl Wollers should be fit after groin problems either this week or next, but Ben Andrews has a slight knee niggle, and the club have no spare central defenders.

The Rocks are ninth in the Ryman premier as they head for a mid-table encounter at Wingate and Finchley this Saturday in what will be their only league game in a run of four Saturdays.

Last week’s win means they will be back in FA Cup action on Saturday, September 22 – when they have been handed a tough trip to Conference South high-flyers Maidenhead – while the FA Vase occupies them a week later with a home tie against Ryman one north outfit Ilford.

Howell said: “It’s difficult when you’re trying to get league points on the board and you’re playing more cup than league games. But it’s the same for most teams at this time of year.

“Plenty of people are paying us nice compliments but I’m more concerned about getting results at the moment. We don’t want to be dragged down too close to the bottom of the table.”

The Rocks’ home game with Harrow, which was due to take place on September 22, has been pushed back to Tuesday, October 23.

Meanwhile, the supporters’ club have paid for new seating in the main stand. This will be installed in the next few weeks.