Rocks Review: Victory shows team are getting over loss of foursome

editorial image

The resurgent Rocks feel they are starting to get over the loss of four key players.

Saturday’s 5-0 win over Burgess Hill featured some new players performing well – and some old favourites looking back to the form that carried the Rocks so close to the title last season.

Their first home victory for seven weeks was a big relief for the management, players and fans alike and now they’re aiming to rediscover the consistency needed to keep them in touch at the top of the table.

The retirement of Michael Birmingham and Luke Nightingale and the departures of James Fraser and Matt Whitehead had left the squad looking thin and fans wondering if the season was going to unravel in front of their eyes.

But the sound beating of their Sussex rivals in front of a 464-strong crowd at Nyewood Lane has restored belief this can be another high-flying season for the club.

The game featured eye-catching performances from new loan signing Steve Harper – whose recruitment on a month’s loan from Met Police was revealed first in last week’s Observer – and from the likes of defender Darryl Wollers and midfield pair Lewis Ide and Jack Blatchford.

They’re the sort of players the Rocks are looking to after losing the quartet – and now they’re being challenged to keep reaching the same levels each week.

The match also saw winger Ben Johnson back to his best, supplying the crosses for Jason Prior, whose hat-trick took his season’s goal tally to 15.

Joint boss Darin Killpartrick said: “The win over Burgess Hill was just what we needed. It will keep a few people quiet for a while.

“We showed exactly the right mentality all over the pitch and our delivery was first rate. That result had been coming.”

His management partner Jamie Howell said: “Our attackers were ruthless on Saturday. Ben Johnson showed the form that made him so hard to defend against last season and once again, Kane Wills showed his worth to the team.

“Kane doesn’t always get the credit he deserves but, especially since Birmy left, he has been absolutely key to the way we play and it’s great to have him fit again and back in the side.

“I think the new-look side, if you want to call it that, is starting to take shape. We lost a few players but we’re showing that life goes on.”

The Rocks go to in-form Folkestone Invicta on Saturday two points behind leaders Dulwich Hamlet and having rediscovered their winning touch after a period of a few weeks when too many games were drawn or lost.

They will welcome another new face at Folkestone – teenage defender Callum Sheriff has joined on work experience from the Brighton academy to cover for Stuart Axten who, with Jon Marzetti, is suspended for one match after amassing five bookings.

Central defender Tim Bond is touch and go to get over a hamstring problem by the weekend but full-back James Crane, who limped off with a knee injury against Burgess Hill, is set to be fit, meaning Sheriff can partner Chris Breach in the centre of defence with Crane and Wollers either side of them.

Harper, whose second-half showing impressed the Rocks faithful, will be pushing for a start against a Folkestone side whose recent winning run, which ended with a 3-2 defeat at Ramsgate on Tuesday, has taken them fourth.

Next Tuesday the Rocks visit Leatherhead in the Ryman League Cup – a game they could probably do without. They’re likely to give a further run-out to the younger players who were on duty for the 3-1 Sussex Senior Cup win at Rye last weekend.

The club are still looking to bring in more players, with the squad still light on options in many areas.