Rocks must keep their end of final-day Ryman title bargain

Some of the many Rocks fans who were at Havant / Picture by Tim Hale
Some of the many Rocks fans who were at Havant / Picture by Tim Hale

Let’s put our West Leigh Park woe behind us – and make sure we give ourselves a chance of lifting the Ryman premier title.

That’s the message from management and fans at Nyewood Lane as another nail-biter of a day for everyone involved in the club looms.

Bognor go into the final day of the regular league season as second favourites for the crown after losing 1-0 at Havant on Easter Monday.

But they will win the title if they beat the Coppers and Havant fail to take three points from their trip to Kingstonian.

If Havant equal or better Bognor’s points haul, the Rocks will go into a home semi-final play-off next Thursday – and they would also be at home in the Bank Holiday Monday final if they got there.

The Rocks’ fate was in their own hands after last weekend’s 3-0 home win over Harlow, but the balance swung in Havant’s favour as ex-Rocks loanee Wes Fogden got the only goal when the top two met on Monday.

We are still in a great position - we will win the title or have a home play-off. But if we are not at our best on Saturday, we won’t beat Met Police. They need the points and will come and have a go.

Jamie Howell

Afterwards Jamie Howell felt he needed to defend his players after a few supporters criticised them as they came off the pitch, and he told the Observer he wouldn’t stand by and listen to them being slagged off without responding.

But a few days on, the mood has settled and it seems all parties are fully focused on Saturday’s massive home clash with Met Police, who will come to town still needing points to be sure of their own survival in the premier division.

Howell said yesterday: “It’s difficult after a defeat because you care so much. You care about results and you care about your players.

“The biggest feeling after we lost at Havant was disappointment. It was such a big crowd and such a great occasion but it just didn’t happen for us.

“The players didn’t do themselves justice on that day but if you’ve watched us over the season, you’ll know we’ve played well the majority of the time and have worked to get where we are now.

“We were playing a strong and experienced team in Havant. They deserve credit for their performance but we didn’t do enough. I was as disappointed as the supporters, if not more so.”

Howell said all thoughts were now on Saturday.

“We are still in a great position - we will win the title or have a home play-off. But if we are not at our best on Saturday, we won’t beat Met Police. They need the points and will come and have a go,” he said.

“There’ll be no weakened line-up from us. We need to put everything into this game, then deal with another match if that’s what we’re given.

“Against Harlow on Saturday we played as we like to, we looked comfortable and in control, but at Havant we didn’t. Hopefully we can get back to that home form again this week.”

If the Rocks do end up in the play-offs it will be a remarkable fifth time in seven years they have been in them.

The previous four forays have led to three semi-final defeats – the most recent of which was against Dulwich Hamlet last season – and one triumph, when they beat Godalming in the Ryman one south play-off semi-final and Dulwich in the final in 2012.

At this stage, any one of Dulwich, Enfield, Wingate & Finchley, Leiston or Needham Market could finish fifth and be the visitors for a play-off semi.

Bognor will be without utility man Gary Charman against the Coppers because of a foot injury sustained in the win over Harlow. Everybody else should be fit, though skipper Dan Beck will be checked after coming through his first full game at Havant since missing a spell of matches with a hip problem.

A large crowd is expected on Saturday and fans are advised to arrive a little earlier than normal.

STEVE BONE

Follow the action on Saturday at www.bognor.co.uk and via @stevebone1 on Twitter

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