Rocks Review: Whyte and Partridge depart as new blood is sought

Havant and Waterlooville have exercised their right to recall Harvey Whyte from the Rocks and he is expected to feature in their squad on New Year’s Day.

With the Rocks’ match at East Thurrock tomorrow postponed, it means the Rocks will not see Whyte again in a Rocks’ shirt - at least not for the foreseeable future.

The club thanked Havant for allowing Whyte to spend the past three months with the Rocks, and say all at Nyewood Lane wish him every success in his future career.

Also at an end is defender Matt Partridge’s loan spell from Reading.

The Rocks wish to put on record their thanks to Reading and to Partridge for his successful loan period which completed with the match at Lewes on Boxing Day.

He certainly impressed during his spell at the Lane, and Rocks fans will follow his future career with interest.

The Rocks will now aim to begin 2013 by strengthening their squad.

Manager Jamie Howell wants to bring in another wide player and an extra striker to help the squad maintain the form that’s seen them remain among the leading pack in the Ryman premier over the Christmas period.

Winger Whyte has been one of the stars of the season. The Rocks hope that if the son of ex-Nyewood Lane favourite Dallas Whyte doesn’t force his way into Lee Bradbury’s first-team plans at West Leigh Park, he may return to Bognor.

Howell said it was a blow to lose Whyte and it added to his determination to add to his own ranks to make sure the Rocks were well-equipped with the quality and quantity they’d need to tackle the second half of the campaign.

That’s a period when fixture congestion will be one of their challenges – the Rocks celebrated Christmas Day having played only 17 games, with 25 still to go.

Howell said: “It was frustrating to lose Saturday’s game with Leiston to the weather. We’ve been playing well and are in confident form, and wanted to press on and get another win.

“It does mean another game to fit in after the festive period but most teams will be having the same problem. On the plus side, it means one or two players who would have been injured last weekend could well be fit when the game does get played.”

The Rocks were unfortunate to go down 1-0 at Lewes on Boxing Day - a late goal beat them in atrocious conditions - and Saturday’s visit to East Thurrock fell victim to a waterlogged pitch.

They host Sussex rivals Whitehawk on New Year’s Day in what for Rocks fans is one of the most eagerly-anticipated games of the season.

At this point last year the Rocks were disrupted by the loss of top scorer Jason Prior, and Howell said he hoped the turn of the year would not bring a similar fate to the squad.

The club cannot, of course, rule out January approaches for one or more of their key players – goalscoring midfielder James Crane is one who has been attracting interest.

But with most of their central characters on contracts, they have warned rival clubs they won’t get their hands on their stars easily.

Howell said: “Ideally we will keep hold of our players and add one or two as well.

“We are always looking at the longer-term, not just the short-term, and it would be nice to bring in two.

“With Harvey going back to Havant that will leave us short of wide options so that is one area we are looking at.

“And we’d like to bring in another forward if the right deal is out there for us.”

The Rocks lost a couple of strikers earlier in the season and would be short of firepower if either Ashley-Paul Robinson or Terry Dodd were to get injured again.

One key man back in contention is skipper and centre-half Ben Andrews, who has recovered well from the knee problems that have plagued the first half of his season. He came on as a sub at Lewes.

Howell warned it was vital the team carried on their fine form. “It’s still a very tight league – anyone can beat anyone. A team who lose two or three games can soon slip down the league. We must make sure we don’t.”

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