Goal-happy Rocks are told: We can still be more clinical

Ben Johnson (right of picture) heads the Rocks into the lead against Cray  Picture by Tommy McMillan
Ben Johnson (right of picture) heads the Rocks into the lead against Cray Picture by Tommy McMillan

The Rocks have scored 12 goals without reply in three games – but have been told: We can still be more clinical.

They have recorded 4-0 home wins over Frome, Hampton & Richmond and Cray to move into the second qualifying round of the FA Cup and jump to seventh in the Ryman premier division.

It takes their recent run to seven wins and two draws in nine games, a spell in which they’ve scored 25 goals and conceded only four.

Manager Jamie Howell is delighted with results and performances – yet feels there is still room for improvement in the final third.

First in the amazing seven-day run of victories was an FA Cup first qualifying round replay win over Frome, when goals by Harvey Whyte, Ollie Pearce, Ben Godfrey and Terry Dodd secured a second qualifying round visit to Southern League premier-division outfit Weymouth.

Last Saturday brought another 4-0 win, this time against Hampton & Richmond in the league, with Pearce (2), Godfrey and Dodd all on target again.

And the perfect treble was completed on Tuesday night when premier-division bottom team Cray were beaten by the same score, this time Ben Johnson, Pearce, Dan Sackman and Whyte on the scoresheet.

Howell said: “A few people were joking after the Cray game that it was getting boring winning by the same score every game. If that’s boring, then I’m happy to keep being boring!

“But in all seriousness, I can’t believe the run we’ve had. We’ve been playing well but I think we’ve had the rub of the green as well. Little key moments in games have been going our way, where perhaps in the first few games of the season, they were going against us.”

Howell had warned after earlier games that his players needed to be more clinical and put away a better ratio of their chances. And he revealed that despite 12 goals in three games from the team – a tally which has put them third in the division’s goalscoring charts – he felt there was further room for improvement in front of goal.

“Yes, we are scoring lots of goals, but there are still times in games when we are not taking chances during periods when we’re on top,” the manager said.

“Against Cray we could easily have scored eight. Just after we went 1-0 up, Ollie missed a great chance going through with the keeper to beat. He made up for it later, but there will be games when we need to bury those chances. Ollie’s been fantastic but he’ll have been disappointed to miss that one. We’ve got to try to be even more clincial. Overall though, it’s going well and we must enjoy it while not getting carried away.

“Our first aim this season is to get enough points to stay up and each of these wins is a step towards that.”

Their form means the Rocks can head to Weymouth in the Cup this Saturday in confident mood, but they’ll need to be at the best against a side who are doing about as well in their league as Bognor are in theirs.

If the Rocks can get through, they’ll be only two rounds from the first round proper and the prospect of a money-spinning game against a League One or League Two team.

Howell said: “It’s nice to be going to Weymouth on the back of good results and we will go there and be positive and have a go. I know Weymouth sent a couple of guys to watch our game against Cray but we won’t worry about that. We just need to concentrate on ourselves.”

There are likely to be one or two changes on Saturday.

Harvey Whyte is banned for one game after picking up five bookings, while James Crane serves the final match of a three-game ban.

But skipper Kane Wills looks ready to return after recovering from ankle ligament damage sustained at Kingstonian, while two other midfielders – Scott Chamberlain and Dan Kempson – are pressing for starts.

Centre-half Craig Robson was missing against Cray after getting held up driving back from the midlands but may return in place of Sackman, who was an able deputy.

Daryl Wollers sat out the Cray game but could feature at the weekend while he awaits groin surgery.

Striker Ben Godfrey will miss two games in early October – against Enfield and Hornchurch – because of family commitments, which could see Terry Dodd given a chance to start after making an impact as a sub.

STEVE BONE