The Rocks are treating their two-week break as another pre-season in an effort to maintain the sizzling form that’s taken them into the Ryman premier’s top six.
After a hectic run of league and cup games, they are without a match this weekend as their scheduled opponents AFC Hornchurch are in FA Cup action.
They return to the pitch for a home FA Trophy tussle with Thurrock a week Saturday but don’t play another league game until October 26, when they go Wingate & Finchley.
Boss Jamie Howell - just named Ryman premier manager of the month for September - is happy his squad have a break from competitive action and coach Darin Killpartrick revealed the players would be working hard despite having no game.
Killpartrick said: “We’re treating this period as a mini pre-season. We are training as often as we would be if we were playing, and we will get together for a session on Saturday.
“We’ll be doing a lot of fitness work - Neil Cockroft has worked tirelessly on the training ground to get the fitness levels up to where they are now and we want to continue that.
“Our hard work is paying off at the moment but we won’t ease off. The players won’t be allowed to be complacent, and hopefully we will keep the run going.”
The Rocks went into the lay-off from matches on the back of a superb league run. They’ve won their past six Ryman matches and have dropped only two points in the past eight games. Their latest victims were Enfield, who were beaten 5-1 at Nyewood Lane on Saturday.
When the Rocks do next take the field, it will be without full-back Jon Marzetti. He has moved to Ryman one south side Peacehaven after failing to nail down a regular starting spot at Bognor.
Goalkeeper Tom Boyle has joined Southern League outfit Guildford City although the Rocks are retaining his registration so he could return in an emregency.
The club are working on goalie cover for Mark Zawadski, who will be suspended for the Thurrock game after his red card against Weymouth. Midfielder Doug Tuck, sent off in the same game, will miss three games, the Trophy tie the first of them.
Howell said he was sorry to see Marzetti go but could understand the 22-year-old’s desire for regular football.
“He’s been so consistent for us over three years and is unlucky not have featured more regularly,” said Howell. “He’s never let us down and when he has been left, it’s not been through any fault of his own. We wish him all the best.”
It’s Alex Malins’ arrival on loan from Crawley that has seen Marzetti’s apperances limited this season and the Rocks hope to keep Malins for the maximum three months allowed.
They’ve also taken left-back Michael Weir, 22, after the former Southampton schoolboy returned to England following spells in Portugal and the Cypriot first division. He had a good debut against Enfield but it was cut short by a thigh strain.
Howell is delighted by the league form - and by the fact he has so many players in form, his selection dilemmas centre on who to leave out.
Striker Ben Godfrey is a case in point. He has scored seven goals in 12 games since arriving in August but missed the Enfield win because of a family wedding and may have trouble displacing Ollie Pearce and Terry Dodd, who played up front on Saturday and each scored two apiece to bring their season’s tallies to six.
In addition, midfielders Harvey Whyte, Scott Chamberlain and Dan Kempson and utility man James Crane are all fit and pushing for call-ups.
Howell said: “We played well from the start against Enfield and it ended up a very comfortable win. It was nice to do that after what happened against Weymouth.
“Confidence has been a massive factor in helping us turn things around after our poor start to the season. The players know what they’re doing and we’re having lots of possession in every game. Players who come here are finding it’s a good club to play at, and we have had a settled team this season, which also helps.
“Having a Saturday with no match is fine by me. We play a lot of football and it’s good to have the odd breather. We’ll be more than ready when the next game comes around.”
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