Rocks have lift-off - but still need more goals

The Rocks on the attack against Met Police Picture by Kate Shemilt C131189-5

The Rocks on the attack against Met Police Picture by Kate Shemilt C131189-5

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FOUR points from six over the bank holiday weekend has lifted the Rocks - but they have insisted their search for more goals is as intense as ever.

They put their wretched start to their Ryman premier campaign behind them with a solid 2-0 win at home to Met Police and a 1-1 draw at Lewes.

The points lifted them from 23rd to 17th in the table and has given players and fans a much-needed confidence boost after a return of only one point - and 11 goals conceded - from their first four matches.

But manager Jamie Howell warned they now needed to maintain the standards shown in the past two games - and find more of a goal threat.

And they are set to get a major boost this weekend - when they host Canvey Island - or next with the return to the first-team of Ben Johnson, who is back in full training after nearly a year out with a cruciate knee ligament injury.

Howell said: “It’s been a pleasing week. We worked hard on the defensive side of things at training after the Carshalton defeat and it was fantastic that we kept a clean sheet against a good Met Police side.

“We shaded that game and at Lewes, although both keepers made a number of excellent saves, we totally dominated the possession for a long time. All we lacked was the goals to show for it.”

The Rocks signed three players last Friday - taking Crawley full-back Alex Malins on loan and bringing midfielder Scott Chamberlain and keeper Tom Boyle back to Nyewood Lane - but Howell said finding a natural goalscorer remained the top priority.

He said: “We’re looking everywhere. We know what we need but all clubs want the same thing. We’re looking at Conference South level for strikers who aren’t getting games, but it’s not easy. There’s not a big pool of goalscorers to pick from - I wish there was.

“I think if we can get in one quality striker - or even two at a push - it would make a big difference to us.”

Malins has made an impression already, slotting seamlessly into a defence which has conceded just once in 180 minutes with the teenager involved.

Howell said: “He’s an assured player and has started well for us. We’re grateful to Crawley for letting him come to us. He can play at centre-half too, so will be a valuable asset to us.”

Chamberlain, who impressed with the Rocks in his last spell five years ago, is three to four weeks from match fitness after a spell without a club and the Rocks don’t want to rush him into the first team.

Howell said: “If he can be even half the player he was when he was at Bognor previously, he’ll be excellent. But we have to be patient with him. He’a anxious to build up his fitness.”

Boyle’s return is a popular one with the Green Army. He left for Godalming in the summer but found himself as No2 at the Surrey club, so the Rocks were happy to take him back as Mark Zawadski’s understudy, putting pressure on the No1 to perform every week.

But Howell said the ‘best new signing the club could hope for’ - long-term absentee Johnson - could feature in Saturday’s home game with Canvey Island. If he is not pitched in that soon, the trip to Billericay a week later could see him make his return exactly a year after picking up his cruciate injury in an FA Cup tie with Epsom.

The manager said: “He’s seen his consultant and his knee is fine structurally. He is available to play - we just need to judge carefully how many more training sessions we give him before he plays.

“He’s been in full training but the boys have probably been going a bit easy on him. We might give him ten or 15 minutes to begin with but fans can certainly expect to see him soon. He’s as good as any signing we could make.”

Daryl Wollers and James Crane continue to play through injury problems and are effectively sharing one spot in the team, while the knee injury that’s kept midfielder Dan Kempson out is clearing up.

STEVE BONE