Rocks Review: Youngsters told - earn right to wear green and white

It’s been another fine week for the Rocks’ ever-younger squad - but only after they had to be reminded they were no longer playing for the youth team.

With the club’s terrible run of injuries showing no signs of ending, more and more teenagers are being called into the first team - and on the whole are doing well.

And any of them taking the step up lightly were given a wake-up call by a half-time tongue-lashing from the management in Tuesday night’s Ryman League Cup second-round tie at Burgess Hill.

Manager Jamie Howell felt some of the team weren’t showing the desire the club demand from anyone who gets to pull on a first-team shirt - and told them so.

It had the right effect as the Rocks stepped up a few gears in the second half and went on to win the penalty shootout after a 0-0 draw.

That followed a highly-creditable 1-1 draw at Canvey Island on Saturday which took the Rocks into the top six in the Ryman premier.

Howell said the youngsters were having to learn fast. “We’re pleased with the youngsters but sometimes I think some don’t realise how lucky they are,” he said.

“You have to earn the right to play for Bognor. It’s not something that should be seen as an easy step. They’re not playing for the youth team but for the senior team in the town.

“I can handle them not playing well; what I can’t handle is them not showing the desire we demand.

“I don’t often lose my rag but on this occasion I did. We felt they were going through the motions a bit in the first half, but the second half was much better.

“Some might have been taken aback but we can afford nothing less than 11 players out on the pitch who are fully committed to the club.”

Striker Ollie Pearce and Ryan Morey are the two latest additions to the first-team squad. Both were on duty at Burgess Hill along with fellow youngsters Connor Cody, Doug Tuck and Carl Walshe.

Another new recruit is Pau Casassa Busquets, signed from FC Martinenc, a Spanish semi-professional side near Barcelona. The midfielder is studying at the University of Chichester.

Pearce scored the winning penalty in the shootout after keeper Tom Boyle pulled off two saves.

And Pearce and Morey were among six past or present students of Darin Killpartrick at Chichester College’s sports department who were involved in the cup tie - Cody and James Crane and two Hillians players being the others.

Killpatrick spoke of his pride at seeing the youngsters come through, but said it was tough teaching the Bognor approach to so many in a short space of time.

All are set for appearances in the coming weeks as the injuries pile up and Kane Wills serves a three-match ban.

Skipper Ben Andrews could be out for six months. He is awaiting a scan on a nasty-looking knee injury with the Rocks hoping it is not as bad as the cruciate ligament damage that has ruled out winger Ben Johnson for the season.

Another casualty on Tuesday was Dan Kempson, out for up to three weeks with a knee ligament strain. James Crane came off with a migraine but should be okay for Saturday’s home clash with Enfield.

Jon Marzetti has a slight hamstring strain but groin-injury victim Daryl Wollers is training again.

Better news is that forwards Ashley Robinson and Steve Harper could both be available this weekend after recovering from knee and hamstring problems. But striker Terry Dodd is still two to three weeks away after breaking a metatarsal while Stuart Axten is up to five weeks away with knee trouble.

That leaves the squad still looking stretched as the Rocks enter a run of five straight home games. After Enfield’s visit on Saturday, Harrow are the league opposition next Tuesday before matches against Bridgwater in the FA Trophy and Thurrock and Hampton & Richmond in the league.

See a report from Rocks v Enfield first on on Saturday evening