Rocks must sharpen up after FA Trophy flop

Action from the first Trophy tie between the Rocks and Sudbury   Picture by Tommy McMillan

Action from the first Trophy tie between the Rocks and Sudbury Picture by Tommy McMillan

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ROCKS players have been told to show more hunger and desire in the wake of their FA Trophy failure.

A replay defeat to a side who play a division below them left the Nyewood Lane management questioning Bognor’s mental toughness.

And the players have been told to show they can be tougher and stronger – or face being told they are not wanted.

The Rocks’ early exit to Ryman one north opponents AFC Sudbury is a blow to the club on two levels: the fans fancied a little run to make up for their early FA Cup exit, and the club have missed a big pay day at Maidstone in the next round and the prospect of making thousands of pounds from an extended run in the competition.

The first qualifying round tie at Nyewood Lane ended 2-2, although only after Ollie Pearce rescued the Rocks with a late long-range strike.

Sudbury won the replay 2-1 although had the Rocks played from the start like they did in the closing stages, and not been 2-0 down after 48 minutes, they might have come through.

It leaves the Sussex Senior Cup as the only knockout competition they are still in and they will now need to sharpen up their form and hope a good run in the Ryman premier can lift spirits.

Manager Jamie Howell said: “I was very disappointed to go out. I learned a lot about the players over the two games.

“Ability-wise we are fine – but mentally I have to question a few of the players. Sudbury pressed us and set out to make it tough for us. We should be able to deal with that but didn’t.

“And some of our finishing has been comical. There are chances we’re missing from three yards. We’re doing everything right to create the chances but not taking them.

“We’re back to square one and things need to change. Over time, maybe we need to change a few of the personnel.

“In the second half of the replay, we did at leasty have a go. But it is still a massive disappointment to go out. If we could have got through to go to Maidstone, apart from anything else we’d have got half the gate money from what’s likely to be a very big crowd.”

Coach Darin Killpartrick said: “There’s a lack of leadership at times on the pitch. We failed to capitalise on key moments in the games and at Sudbury, they had more desire than us in the first 45 minutes.

“We need to be psychologically stronger as a group. We can’t allow teams to have more hunger and desire than us. We have a lot to learn but if we can learn it, we’ll be okay.”

The goalscoring hopes should get a boost for Saturday’s home tussle with Wingate and Finchley, with striker Jason Prior set to play his last game before his month’s loan from Margate ends.

Injury has restricted Prior – who needs two goals for his Rocks ton – to three appearances so far and the Rocks are not confident he will be allowed to stay beyond the current loan spell.

Prior’s recovery from a hanstring problem gives Howell options up front, where Ollie Pearce was one of the few to win praise for his Sudbury displays and Ashley-Paul Robinson and Stuart Green are also pressing for places.

Winger Ben Johnson and midfielder Charlie Oatway have proved their fitness after recent spells on the sidelines, while Harvey Whyte did well switching from midfield to right-back on Tuesday.

STEVE BONE

See a report from the Wingate and Finchley game on this website on Saturday evening