JAMIE HOWELL reckons the Rocks have secured two wins and a draw from their opening three games without being at their best.
The manager is happy with their positive start to the Ryman premier season but says there is more to come from his side as the handful of new players in the squad settle in.
They followed their opening-week wins over Merstham and Staines with a 1-1 draw at Canvey Island on Saturday, although needed a 94th-minute header by Jason Prior to rescue them.
Now the games come thick and fast – with Saturday’s home tussle with Tonbridge is the first of seven games in 22 days, six of them in the league. The Rocks go to Met Police – who are smarting from a 7-0 thumping at Kingstonian – next Tuesday.
Happily, the squad’s injuries are clearing up – although midfield pair Dan Beck and Doug Tuck are both still a week or so away from full fitness.
Howell said: “It was a good point at Canvey. When we were playing against 11 men we were doing well, but then they had a man sent off and, as often happens, that made it harder for us to break them down.
We spoke about getting a good start and we have got it. Now we need to keep it going. I don’t think we’ve played to our maximum yet.
“We went one down before half-time and it looked for a while like we’d come aweay with nothing. Perhaps last season we would have done, but we are resilient and kept plugging away and got the goal we deserved.
“Canvey, I think, felt hard-done-by, but I felt we deserved to get something.
“I’m delighted with seven points from the first three. We spoke about getting a good start and we have got it. Now we need to keep it going.
“I don’t think we’ve played to our maximum yet. Although most of the squad were here last season, we do have three or four new faces and it takes time for everyone to be fully on the same wavelength.”
Tonbridge, who held the Rocks to two draws last season, are next up and Howell expects tight games against them and the recently-hammered Met Police.
“We’re already seeing a lot of teams capable of beating one another in this league, and that doesn’t surprise me,” Howell said.
“I think Met Police losing 7-0 at Kingstonian was a bit of a freak result. Kingstonian had been quite comfortably beaten themselves by Leatherhead in their previous game, so you just don’t know what to expect from teams at this stage.”
Howell hopes to have centre-half Sami El-Abd fit for Saturday as the new signing recovers from a hamstring problem. He could resume his defensive partnership with Craig Robson, although Pompey youngster Chad Field has performed well in his place.
Utility man Harvey Whyte is also close to full fitness but Beck – who has resumed training – and Tuck won’t be rushed back into midfield action after their hamstring troubles.
Howell is in the fairly-unusual position of not having to actively seek further additions to the squad at he moment.
“I’m pretty happy with the squad,” he said. “We have the sort cover beyond the first-choice XI that you always need.”
* The Rocks have switched their home game against Met Police from Tuesday, September 8, to Wednesday 9. It’s because there’s a live England game on TV on the Tuesday and the club feared some fans would forego a trip to the Lane to watch Roy Hodgson’s team.
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