Rocks Review: Ridiculous injury list grows and grows

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THREE more games - seven more injuries. And as the Rocks limp towards the end of the season, manager Jamie Howell has described as ‘ridiculous’ the casualties the club have suffered this year.

A broken collarbone suffered by winger Harvey Whyte and hamstring and ankle injuries picked up by defenders Sam Pearce and Jon Marzetti over Easter stretched an already-depleted squad to its very limit.

Things got worse on Wednesday night when they ended their Sussex Senior Cup semi-final win over Hastings with another four walking wounded. Dan Beck, Daryl Wollers and Josh Warren all picked up foot and leg injuries while Terry Dodd sustained an injured hand.

All four - in addition to the earlier casualties - are doubts for Saturday’s rematch with Hastings in the league at Nyewood Lane.

It’s typical of a season in which Howell and Darin Killpartrick have barely been able to send out the same starting XI for two weeks in a row.

Remarkably, the squad have found a new lease of life and Monday’s 3-1 home win over Lewes removed any lingering threat of a relegation battle, ensuring another season of Ryman premier football at Nyewood Lane, while the 2-1 cup win puts the Rocks in their second county cup final in four years.

But the injury list has left many wondering what they might have achieved with more luck.

The season has seen:

* Goalkeeper Craig Stoner troubled by knee and back problems - and even severe toothache that kept him out of Friday’s defeat at Whitehawk.

* Replacement keeper Nick Jordan come in only to be troubled by a shoulder injury which has now forced him to take a break from football.

* Centre-half Stuart Axten ruled out by two serious ankle injuries - the latest of which has meant him missing the final busy two months of the campaign.

* Club skipper Ben Andrews forced to retire because of persistent problems - although the Rocks got so desperate they asked him if he could sit on the bench for last night’s Sussex Senior Cup semi-final against Hastings.

* Central defender Tim Bond unable to make his comeback as a long-standing groin problem proves difficult to clear up.

* Other defenders, including Louis John and Daryl Wollers, hit by hamstring and groin injuires that have seriously limited their appearances.

n Winger Ben Johnson ruled out for the entire season by a cruciate knee ligement injury suffered in early September.

* Striker Ashley-Paul Robinson having to sit on the sidelines for two months early in the campaign.

* Forward Terry Dodd breaking his foot at a time when strike partner Robinson was out.

* Youngster Dan Kempson out for several weeks with a leg injury.

We revealed last week how the club had forked out £25,000 on scans, operations, external physio appointments and wages for players out injured.

Boss Howell, reacting to the latest injury woes, jokes that he now runs the other way when he sees the club’s physio coming towards him, for fear of having to add to the 34 players he has used since August.

“Harvey broke his collarbone at Whitehawk and, as is often the way with these things, it was an innocuous challenge. He fell awkwardly going for a ball,” he said.

“It’s another major injury to a key player. What’s happened to us with injuries this season has been ridiculous - absolutely ridiculous.

“It’s come to us hardly being able to get a team out. Then just when you thought there couldn’t be any more, we lost Sam Pearce and Jon Marzetti from the defence in the Lewes game on Monday - that before another run of four games in 11 days. Then four more on Wednesday. It’s a joke.

“We’re now past the point where we can bring in new players, but even if we could, clubs don’t want to let anyone go. All clubs have got loads of games still to play and need numbers.

“We spent last Thursday on the phone to other managers asking if we could borrow anyone, but to no avail.”

Coach Killpartrick said of the injury nightmare: “I’ve never, ever known anything like it - it’s unbelievable. And the injuries we’ve had all seem to have come at the worst time.

“We had a few bad injuries last season but this is far worse. Considering what we’ve endured, I think we’ve punched well above our weight.”

The Lewes win has taken the pressure off for the final few league matches but Howell said they wanted to build on it and end the Ryman campaign on a high point. They host relegation-threatened Hastings on Saturday and promotion hopefuls Canvey Island next Tuesday.

STEVE BONE