Rocks boss: We’ll improve - we have to!

Alex Parsons is about to slot in the equaliser    Picture by Chris Hatton
Alex Parsons is about to slot in the equaliser Picture by Chris Hatton

JAMIE HOWELL reflected on a losing start to the season and said: We’ll improve – we have to.

The Rocks manager warned the sort of defending seen in the defeats to Canvey Island and Leatherhead would result in relegation if it did not stop.

But he said he was confident of strengthening the back-line and felt results would come as soon as his new-look team had got more used to playing with one another.

The Rocks admit they are playing catch-up, having struggled to field their preferred line-up in pre-season and being left to start the league season with players still finding their feet.

Howell said all five of the goals conceded in the opening two matches were ‘self-inflicted’ and described as ‘comical’ the two Leatherhead scored to win 2-1 at Nyewood Lane on Tuesday night.

But he hopes to sign an experienced centre-half ahead of Saturday’s tough-looking home clash with early leaders Maidstone.

Elsewhere on the pitch, Howell is reasonalby happy with his options – although he is still in the market for an out-and-out striker to add goals to the good work Darren Wheeler and Alex Parsons are doing.

The Leatherlead loss, three days after a 3-1 reverse at Canvey Island, left the Rocks fourth from bottom.

Howell said: “We probably deserved something from Tuesday’s game but if we continue doing the things we’re doing, we’ll be relegated. The goals we let in were comical. Every goal we are giving away is self-inflicted.

“Losing Stuart Axten was always going to be tough and we haven’t replaced him. We’ve certainly tried – I had an experienced central defender lined up to come last week and it didn’t materialise. Now there is another we are hoping to get in.

“We need an out-and-out centre-forward too. But there are positive signs. Players like Darren Wheeler, Alex Parsons, Charlie Oatway and Jake Thomson have come in and done well but at times we look a bit nervous playing as a team.

“They’re good players and they will bring us results. You can build a new team overnight.

“In pre-season, for one reason or another, we couldn’t get out the team we wanted and that means we are now spending the first three or four games looking at players and who can do what.

“We need players in one or two key positions, and need to get back one or two who have been unavailable, but once we do we will improve.”

Winger Ben Johnson has now completed his suspension and is available from Saturday, while James Crane’s shoulder injury is healing and he could be back in action next week. Defender Dan Sackman’s return from holiday will also boost the back-line.

Another wideman, Arron Hopkinson, has returned to Nyewood Lane after his move to Farnborough didn’t work out – but there are still worries over his fitness as he gets over a stress fracture of his foot.

Maidstone and Hendon will ensure the tough early-season tests keep coming for Howell’s men.

He said: “Maidstone look like they will be strong again this year, while we haven’t had much luck at Hendon in recent years. But we need to keep plugging away and working hard, and cut out the sloppy defending.”

STEVE BONE

Get first news of the Maidstone and Hendon games on this website on Saturday and Monday night