JAMIE HOWELL has one eye on next season as he challenges his squad to keep up their recent fine form until the final kick of the current campaign.
Four wins and a draw from five matches this month - before the trip to face Met Police - have blown away worries the Rocks’ season could peter out.
Howell is delighted by the upturn in form and results and says it needs to continue - so that the team have good form behind them when the Sussex Senior Cup final comes around and so everyone at the club, fans included, can head off for the summer in good spirits.
He revealed he was using the final few games to judge which players - particularly the younger members of the squad - looked ready to be regarded as first-team regulars next season.
The Rocks hope most of the present squad will remain at Nyewood Lane for next term and are trying to convince some of the young stars who may have aspirations of playing higher up the leagues that another season of regular first-team Ryman premier football is what they need.
Saturday’s 2-1 win at Thurrock, courtesy of second-half goals by Sam Pearce and Dan Thompson, made it ten points from 12 since the Rocks saw the back of a wretched February and March.
Howell said: “It was a good win which we could have had in the bag before we actually got the winner.
“That made it four wins from five and we couldn’t have asked for more from the players. I don’t like end-of-season games being regarded as not meaning anything so it’s been pleasing to see us continue to work hard and carve out wins.
“We’re using this time to get ready for next season and take a longer look at the players we have in the squad. I’m really pleased with how the squad is shaping up, but I would think we will want to make a few additions in the summer - to add a bit of experience.
“I hope our present players will want to be a part of it and so far the indications are good.”
The need for a striker who can get you 20 or 25 goals in a season has been brought home to the Rocks this season and the hunt for such a player is a priority. Their tally of 44 league goals is the joint third worst in the division.
Howell said: “Terry Dodd could be that player. If he come back for pre-season at his fittest, he can be a real asset.”
The manager also revealed Thompson - who has scored five goals in his past five games - was one of those to whomj he was trying to ‘sell’ the idea of another season at the Lane.
The Rocks have three more league games to come. They host promotion-chasing Lowestoft in Saturday’s final home game then travel to Harrow next Thursday and Hampton & Richmond on Saturday week.
Three weeks later they will face Brighton’s development squad in the Sussex Senior Cup final at the Amex and Howell said he was delighted for all at the Rocks that the Sussex FA had secured use of the Amex for the game.
They may even have winger Harvey Whyte available for the game - he is recovering well from his dislocated shoulder.
Howell said: “It’s perhaps not ideal that it’s three weeks after the final league game but sometimes a little rest like that can refresh a team. We’ll probably train once a week up to the final and we’ll go out and give it our best shot.”