FA Trophy gives Rocks chance to extend fine form

Craig Robson in action for the Rocks - he may switch from defence to midfield against Thurrock  Picture by Chris Hatton

Craig Robson in action for the Rocks - he may switch from defence to midfield against Thurrock Picture by Chris Hatton

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The Rocks embark on an FA Trophy trail on Saturday with a warning not to ease off after their recent glut of goals and victories.

Thurrock - who play a division below the Rocks in Ryman one north - visit Nyewood Lane for a first round qualifying tie that’ll be worth £2,700 to the winners.

With close on £10,000 up for grabs even if the Rocks can get through three qualifying rounds to make the first round proper, it’s easy to see why a run in the contest would be a big boost to the club.

But although the team go into the game on the back of a superb run of results in the Ryman premier, manager Jamie Howell and coach Darin Killpartrick are again warning against the smallest hint of complacency.

The fact the Rocks go into the game with two of the key players from the recent run - keeper Mark Zawadski and midfielder Doug Tuck - suspended is another reason why they shouldn’t take anything for granted.

By Saturday, it will be a fortnight since the Rocks last played but the coaches have treated the break from competitive action as a mini pre-season and have worked hard on players’ fitness levels.

Howell said: “We’ve worked hard and the players are looking well and fit. We’ve been in good form and there’s no reason that shouldn’t continue.

“We’ve been creating a lot of chances, which I’m delighted with, but there’s still room for improvement in terms of how many of those chances we’re taking.”

Killpartrick added: “When you’re in good form, you can be vulnerable. We will always look to improve on how we’re performing, not resting on our laurels.

“Thurrock are always a decent side who command respect and they’re going well in the league.”

The management are working to bring in a goalkeeper to cover for Zawadski, banned for this game only after his red card in the FA Cup defeat to Weymouth. They hope to reach agreement with Southampton to borrow one of their young stoppers.

Tuck begins a three-match ban this weekend and options for replacing him have been hit by Scott Chamberlain being away and by Harvey Whyte’s continuing thigh problem which is likely to keep him out.

Full-back Alex Malins - whose arrival at Nyewood Lane has coincided with the great run of form - has a tight hamstring, which could see James Crane switch to right-back. They are waiting on the fitness of ex-Southampton youngster Michael Weir, whose debut at left-back last time out, in the win over Enfield, was cut short by a thigh strain.

Howell said: “We’ll be able to put out a strong starting XI but our strength in depth isn’t what it could be. I’d still like to bring in some quality in a couple of areas of the squad.”

Up front, Howell must decide whether to pitch Ben Godfrey back in after he missed the Enfield victory because of a family wedding. Doing that would mean splitting up the pairing of Terry Dodd and Ollie Pearce, who each scored twice against the north Londoners.

Howell said a run in the FA Trophy would be welcome, and not just for the money it would make the club.

He said: “It’s a chance to put yourselves up against the top non-league players. The more rounds you can get through, the more you will find out about your own abilities.”

The Rocks don’t return to league action until Saturday week, when they go to Wingate & Finchley.

STEVE BONE

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