Rocks are told: Forget the FA Trophy

Craig Robson has scored three in two games / Picture by Tim Hale
Craig Robson has scored three in two games / Picture by Tim Hale

THE ROCKS have been told to put their big FA Trophy date out of their minds as they tackle a huge week for their promotion ambitions.

The visit to Sutton in the last 16 of the Trophy is just nine days away, but Bognor have two vital home Ryman premier games before then.

Leaders Hampton & Richmond are in town on Saturday and another team bidding to go up, Leiston, follow suit on Tuesday night.

Manager Jamie Howell said the Sutton tie was not yet foremost in his thoughts, and the same should be true for his players.

The Rocks moved back into the play-off places with a fine 3-1 win at Wingate & Finchley on Saturday thanks to Craig Robson’s double and a Jason Prior penalty.

That extended the team’s run of straight wins to six and you have go back to December 19 to find their most recent defeat.

They’ve gone on a tremendous run this season, but we’ve had a very good run ourselves of late. So something has to give!

The big challenge on the horizon now is the sheer number of games.

Tuesday’s postponement of the Sussex Senior Cup quarter-final at home to Burgess Hill has seen that game pencilled in for Tuesday, February 9.

That means that, as things stand, Bognor have SEVEN games in February and EIGHT in March – and that’s without any further progress in the FA Trophy or the county cup.

It is sure to test Howell, coach Darin Killpartrick and their squad to the limit – but they are relishing the challenge.

They have added a third Pompey youngster to the squad on loan for the rest of the season.

Calvin Davies can play at right-back, on the right wing or in midfield and joins his Fratton squad-mates Snorre Nilsen and Chad Field in the Bognor camp.

And Howell has revealed efforts to bring in others were continuing – although they have been knocked back this week in their attempt to recruit a striker from a National League South club.

Howell said that with such a hectic fixture schedule, it was important not to look too far ahead.

“It’s true the Sutton game in the FA Trophy is coming up fast but it’s not in my thoughts yet,” he said.

“The league is the priority and we have two massive games coming up in the next week.

“We can concentrate on the trip to Sutton once those two are out of the way.”

Hampton have surprised some by leading the Ryman premier at this advanced stage of the season and Howell knows they’ll give his troops another stiff test.

They beat the Rocks 2-1 at home in December.

“Hampton are very quick, strong and well-organised,” he said.

“They’ve gone on a tremendous run this season, but we’ve had a very good run ourselves of late. So something has to give!

“Then we face Leiston on Tuesday and and they are right in the mix too, and I’d expect them to be so at the end of the season. They’ll be two tough games but we’re at home and go into them with confidence.”

Bognor won at Wingate despite being without winger Alex Parsons (knee injury), right-back Harvey Whyte (groin and stomach) and midfielders Dan Beck (illness) and Gary Charman (hamstring).

Howell expects Beck and Charman to be fit to face Hampton but said Parsons and Whyte both needed further monitoring.

Each could need surgery but may be able to play while delaying ops until the summer.

The manager promised plenty of work was going on to bring in more players.

“We are delighted to have got Calvin in from Pompey, who have been great in helping us,” he said.

“We’re trying to bring in others but as ever, getting the right players – ones who can make a difference to the squad, that is – is not easy, especially at this time of the season.

STEVE BONE

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