Rocks aim to take stunning Ryman form into FA Cup

Terry Dodd celebrates his brilliant winner at Billericay, purused by the hat-wearing Ben Johnson  Picture by Tommy McMillan
Terry Dodd celebrates his brilliant winner at Billericay, purused by the hat-wearing Ben Johnson Picture by Tommy McMillan

The Rocks stormed into the top half of the Ryman premier table with two away wins in three days - and now want to use their stunning form to spark an overdue FA Cup run.

Victories away to Billericay and Kingstonian suggested their poor start was just a blip, but manager Jamie Howell has again warned there can be no room for complacency.

And the first test of whether it’s the real Rocks side who have stood up in recent games comes with the long trip to Somerset to face Southern League premier side Frome in the cup on Saturday.

It’s many years since the men from Nyewood Lane got anywhere near the first round proper and once again, they begin this run with high hopes among players and fans that this can be the year they make a few headlines.

They’ve at least set themselves up nicely for the te by extending their recent run to make it four wins and a draw from their last five.

Ben Johnson’s three appearance off the bench have helped, as have Ben Godfrey’s four goals in those five games, but Howell paid tribute to the whole squad for pulling together and proving the early record of one point from four games wasn’t a true reflection of their ability.

Godfrey put the Rocks ahead at Billericay and at Kingstonian - where the Rocks were up against the unbeaten leaders - before they were pegged back in each game.

Terry Dodd scored a superb late winner in Essex while Johnson tucked away a late penalty in Monday’s win to complete a brilliant few days for the club.

Howell said: “What worried me after the first few games was that we were not getting results - and this is a results business. I was saying ‘We are doing okay’ and some were thinking I was an idiot!

“But in Jack Pearce and Dabba (Darin Killpartick) we have people at the club who understand football and who knew, like me, we weren’t far away and knew what needed to be done.

“We have brought in one or two new faces, haven’t gone out to panic-buy players, have worked hard in training and are now reaping the rewards.

“I’m especially pleased for the fans. They didn’t turn on us after our bad start and are now being rewarded.”

Some said the win at Kingstonian was as well as the Rocks have played in a decade and Howell said that was nice to hear, but added: “We could have lost. At 1-1 they had a great chance to go ahead and Alex Malins got in a great block to prevent a goal. If we’d lost 2-1, no-one would be saying that was our best game in years.

“Things have turned for the better very quickly but at this level, you have to be aware they can turn the other way just as fast. It’s no good anyone going to Frome and thinking we’re bound to win. It’ll be a tough game.”

Killpartrick said: “I’m delighted with recent results but not over-excited. To come away from Billericay with a 1-1 draw would have been outstanding but then to win it with a set-piece we have practised on the training ground was even better.

“At Kingstonian we played some good football too, but while we have come a long way, we still have a long way to go. We are climbing the mountain but we don’t want to stop and sit down halfway up.”

Utility man James Crane will be banned for three games - starting at home to Hampton & Richmond on Saturday week - after what Howell judged a ‘harsh’ red card at Billericay.

Defenders continue to be at the centre of injury worries. Centre-half Stuart Axten missed Monday’s game with a back problem but should be okay to face Frome, while Daryl Wollers - who came in to replace him - again lasted only just over an hour. He has a long-standing groin problem and is awaiting surgery.

Captain Kane Wills is likely to be out for three to four works after sustaining an ankle sprain and possible ligament damage in the challenge that led to the winning penalty at Kingstonian.

Howell said: “He’s been playing superbly and will be missed. We’ll know more before the weekend but hope he won’t be out for longer than four weeks.”

Godfrey and Dodd’s goals continue to offer competition for places up front and Howell praised teenager Ollie Pearce for his often-unsung work up front in stretching defences.

Johnson’s impact has been instant and he is pushing for a starting spot but the Rocks don’t want to expect too much too soon from a player who has had a year out with anterior cruciate ligament damage.