CHRISTMAS table-toppers Rocks have played down injury concerns over their big Boxing Day derby clash with promotion-rivals Worthing.
Things are not as bad as first thought after injury worries stacked up after their 5-2 victory away at Whitstable on Saturday where Rocks sealed top spot in Ryman one south for Christmas, also breaking the 50-point milestone.
The victory was marred by injuries to four players, ahead of the derby date. Ben Andrews, who was already facing a knee cartilage op, came off as a precaution after a twinge, while Terry Dodd was replaced due to a worry over a recurrence of a hamstring injury.
Steve Harper also suffered a hamstring problem and James Crane was taken to hospital suffering with blurred vision.
Dodd, who will be desperate to play against his old club, trained on Tuesday night, while Andrews is expected to have an injection on Friday and be able to play.
Concerns remain over Harper’s hamstring and especially Crane, who has been diagnosed with severe migraines as a result of possible anxiety.
But Bognor joint boss Jamie Howell believes their strength in depth, can shine through no matter who they lose.
He said: “We are lucky as we have a really good squad at the moment as when four come off injured in a game you are thinking, this could be a problem.
“But we have no hesitation in putting someone in knowing they can do a job. Chris Breach is available again, Terry is looking to be fit so he and Jason (Prior) can always be up front if, for example, Steve doesn’t make it, while there are also people like Callum Saunders as well.
“If players do miss out through injury, it’s good to know you have someone to come in and take that place, obviously you want to have your best squad available, but it can’t always happen.
“Ben possibly shouldn’t have played Saturday, but he is due for an injection Friday and will play with the aid of painkillers. Centre half is one place we are short and we should be able to get him through until his operation.”
The Rocks go into the match on 50 points, three clear at the top of the table, while Worthing, back in the last play-off place, are nine points behind, but have a game in hand.
It will be clash of the scorers as well – Bognor, the division’s leading goal getters with 61, with Worthing the second top with 46.
While along with Dodd, Stuart Axten, Saunders, Ben Johnson and Andrews will all be hoping to face their former side.
The game last year brought in a bumper crowd of 1,319 and Howell is hoping for the same again, as well as a good start to a crucial group of games in the new year.
He continued: “We had a really good spell in January last year and we are hoping we can do that again to put us in good stead come the end of the season. Although I am not looking too far ahead as we have some really tough games coming up.
“It’s Worthing first, who are still challenging and then Whitehawk, who are really pushing and looking good, so it’s a really good time for Sussex football.
“I hope we get a good crowd on Boxing Day, we did last year, and they’re always hard-fought games, but ones that are always played in the right spirit, with everyone having a drink together afterwards.”
Worthing boss Chris White believes his side are happy as underdogs – with the pressure completely on the league leaders.
He said: “They have bigger resources than us as we wouldn’t have been able to bring in the likes of Steve Harper and Ben Andrews and we’re probably over-achieving this season. They’re expected to win, so the pressure is all on them.”
Worthing will be without top goalscorer, Ryan McBride, who is suspended.