Rocks told - Enjoy the glory, but don’t let it end just yet

The Rocks celebrate the all-important goal that beat Torquay / Picture by Tim Hale
The Rocks celebrate the all-important goal that beat Torquay / Picture by Tim Hale
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Savour every moment – but don’t stop here.

That’s what the Rocks’ players and fans are being told to do as their Wembley dream continues.

They are one tie from the final at the national stadium after another Trophy giantkilling – a 1-0 quarter-final triumph against National League premier side Torquay.

Now an even bigger test awaits in the form of Grimsby, currently the third best non-league team in the country, who will visit Nyewood Lane for the first leg of the semi-final on Saturday week before hosting the second leg a week later.

Rocks bosses say that Wembley so close, players and fans need to give it one last push in an effort to seal a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the final.

Manager Jamie Howell said: “I think the significance of what we achieved sunk in, for me, on Sunday. I was watching the Capitol One Cup final and suddenly realised we could be playing on the same pitch if we can win the semi-final.

I was watching the Capitol One Cup final and suddenly realised we could be playing on the same pitch if we can win the semi-final.

Jamie Howell

“Then when the draw was made the next day it all seemed very real. Grimsby was probably the hardest tie we could have got but it arguably means we have less to lose.

“If we lost a semi-final to Nantwich, who are at the same level as us, it would have been a let-down but I do feel if we lose to Grimsby, it will be no surprise and less deflating.

“Having said that, we’ll go into the semi-final with confidence and aiming to get through. It will be very, very tough against a full-time professional outfit who have a long Football League history behind them.

“But we’ve got this far and the players have been absolutely brilliant. Everyone’s keen to get up for this tie and give it our best shot.”

Howell said everyone at the club could be proud of Saturday’s victory – and he said even his boss, Dorset House School headmaster Richard Brown, had played a part by allowing him the time off he needs to oversee the continuing success story.

Rocks coach Darin Killpartrick said Saturday was one of his proudest days at the club.

He highlighted the contribution to the Trophy run of keeper Grant Smith and the defence, who have conceded only three goals in eight ties. “They’re my unsung heroes,” he said.

Killpartrick said he enjoyed his post-match crowd-surfing but wouldn’t start doing it after gritty 0-0 draws in the Ryman League. “That’s only for Trophy wins,” he said.

“We’ll relish the Grimsby game. We don’t get easy draws so it’s no surprise to me we got them. We’ll adopt our usual approach.”

For Rocks top scorer and captain Jason Prior, reaching Wembley would be especially sweet, making up for him missing the 2014 final through injury while with Gosport.

Prior said: “I was on loan at Gosport when they got to the final but I wasn’t quite fit. It’s great for any club to get there so for us to do it from the Ryman League would be once in a lifetime.

“Jamie drills into us before we go out there to have no fear. He’s more confident in us than anyone. With the way he sets us up he’s got to believe in what we’re doing. When everyone’s in it together and confident, we can beat anyone on our day.

“With the run we’re on at the moment, each win breeds confidence We take that into the next game and at the moment we’re doing it week in week out.

“This run has shown our players can hold their own against higher teams. I should think there’ll be a little bit of interest in a few of the lads, which is only natural when we’re turning in the performances we are at the moment.”

The home leg of the semi-final will be all-ticket (£12 adults, £5 under-18s), but the return at Blundell Park (adults £15, concessions £5) will not be. Details of home ticket sales will be released soon - see www.bognor.co.uk

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