The trio who can transform Bognor's season
Rocks boss Jack Pearce says his reunited strike trio can be the key to a successful season at Nyewood Lane.
Jimmy Muitt, Dan Smith and Brad Lethbridge started a game together for the first time in more than six months on Saturday – and the result was a three goals in the first 31 minutes and a comfortable 3-0 FA Cup victory over Sittingbourne.
Although no-one is getting away about beating a side from the division below, Pearce says the trio’s combined talents and goals were behind the great start the Rocks made to last season, and it was only when they lost them to injuries and other clubs that form faded. He is convinced they can again bring success – if they stay fit and available.
The FA Cup first qualifying round win over Isthmian south-east side Sittingbourne was much needed on the back of depressing league defeats to Worthing and Carshalton and Pearce and coach Robbie Blake hope the confidence to stem from the win carries into the two league games to come in the next seven days.
Bognor go to sixth-placed East Thurrock on Saturday then host Cheshunt – who are 19th, which is just one below the Rocks – on Tuesday at the Lane.
After that comes the second qualifying round of the FA Cup and Bognor have been handed a tricky visit to National South side and regular play-off opponents Dulwich Hamlet.
The two sides played each other no fewer than four times in Isthmian premier play-offs between 2011 and 2017, winning two apiece.
Pearce said it was great to see Muitt, Smith and Lethbridge starting together again.
“It was nice to win, score goals and keep a clean sheet – and earn the club some prize money in the process,” he said.
“At the start of last season we had Jimmy, Dan and Brad up front and we were flying for a while. But when it came to a point where we couldn’t always play them, and then lost Jimmy and Dan for the whole end of the season, goals dried up.
“I’m not saying they’re the only important part of the team. We still have defensive issues to sort out but having those three available will be massive for us.
“There was so much to admire about the way we played against Sittingbourne, especially in the first half when, for periods of the game, they couldn’t live with us.
“I appreciate they are from a lower league but they were resolute, organised and provided stiff opposition overall so to get a convincing win was very welcome.
“The task now is to get the players to take that confidence into the next game, and we’ll be instilling this positivity in training as we prepare for the game at Thurrock.”
Bognor’s players and fans are looking forward to renewing acquaintances with old foes Dulwich, who are in mid-table in National League South. The second qualifying round, which will offer £6,750 in prize money, takes place on Saturday, September 21.
Pearce said: “Perhaps the draw could have been kinder to us but we go there confident we can put on an assured display and hope to win the tie. We’ve had some great battles, some pulsating games, with Dulwich Hamlet over the years and there is no reason why this shouldn’t be one, too. It should be a great occasion and it’s one we look forward to.”
The Rocks have no new injury concerns for this weekend but Pearce admitted the squad was still not as strong as he would like.
They have bid farewell to striker Tyrell Mitford and young midfielder Emmett Dunn. They were not convinced Mitford was the right man for them long-term while Dunn decided he would get more minutes on the pitch at Chichester City, for whom he scored in their FA Cup win over Chalfont after returning to Oaklands Park.
Pearce said the hunt for new players was continuing.