Rocks enjoying top spot - and carrying on as normal...
The Rocks are keeping their top-six rivals at bay in the hunt for Ryman League top spot with Jamie Howell declaring: We're enjoying it.
A 1-1 draw with Enfield and a 2-1 win over Needham Market – both games in which Bognor conceded first – left them two points clear at the top.
Howell says they are not getting carried away by their lofty position, but nor are they feeling the pressure. And he says their team spirit is proving a big factor in success which has put them above teams who many would have expected to be higher than the Rocks by this stage of the season.
An equaliser by new loan signing Elijah Adebayo secured the Enfield draw before a wonder-strike by Jimmy Muitt and another goal from top scorer James Fraser earned the come-from-behind win over Needham, who’d arrived at Nyewood Lane just a point behind Bognor.
The Rocks head to second-from-bottom Canvey Island on Saturday knowing there can be no dip in performance levels if they are to keep their title and promotion push going.
One big factor is at the moment is they have only one player – striker Jimmy Wild – on the sidelines. He will be out another four to six weeks with a knee ligament problem.
But with other injuries clearing up, Howell and coach Darin Killpartrick have had full turnouts at training and have been able to name a strong starting line-up and stronger-than-usual bench, which for the past two games has included experienced campaigners Gary Charman and Dan Beck.
Howell said: “I was delighted to take four points from the Enfield and Needham Market games. I thought the Needham match was the best we’d played for a couple of weeks.
“We conceded a penalty a little against the run of the play but were creating chances throughout the game. Jimmy scored a wonder-goal which was brilliant. Then we did think about bringing James Fraser off, but know he always has a goal in him and he popped up with another.
“After that Needham had a good go at getting an equaliser and hit the post from a long way out. It could have gone in but we’ll take a bit of good luck and I thought we were deserved winners.”
Since losing at home to Hendon in November, Bognor have scored the last goal in each of their six home league games. They have also scored seven of their nine goals in that sequence in the second half.
Howell acknowledged those statistics indicated strong fitness levels – and a big desire not to lose.
“We’re not easily beaten these days, even when we go behind,” he said. “I think that shows a mental strength and is testament to the players. We have a good squad and being able to give one or two a rest here and there is great.”
Howell praised the week’s three scorers, saying 18-year-old Abebayo – who’s with Bognor for a month from Fulham – was proving an excellent addition to the squad, Muitt was proving, having reached full fitness, what a clever player he was and Fraser was excelling as a goalscoring midfielder.
“We’re enjoying our football but we know that being top now is no different to having been top in November. The only thing that matters is where you are at the end of the season,” Howell added.
Coach Killpartrick felt four points was a fair return from the Enfield and Needham clashes.
“On Tuesday night, from a coaching point of view I was delighted with the way we moved the ball around and defended,” Killpartrick said. “We’re having to leave good players out of the starting XI.
“But as you’d expect, our approach won’t change. Tuesday night was first against second and we’ll go into every game as though it is the same.”
Killpartrick praised the 400-plus fans who turned up twice in four days to back the Rocks. “It was a very cold night on Tuesday but they all turned out –they are brilliant,” he said.
Get the first full report from Canvey Island on Saturday at www.bognor.co.uk/sport
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