Bognor’s festive points haul has set them up for a new-year promotion push – but boss Jack Pearce maintains the line between success and failure in the Bostik premier is very thin.
A 4-1 New Year’s Day victory at Whitehawk gave the Rocks seven points out of nine for the holiday fortnight after they won 2-0 at Worthing then drew 2-2 with Lewes.
It’s put the team back up to ninth in the table and just four points off fifth place ahead of another big week which sees them host Carshalton and travel to Brightlingsea Regent.
Boss Pearce has warned of tough weeks ahead as he and coach Robbie Blake juggle resources still deprived of three long-term casualties and always under threat of losing loanees to their parent clubs.
The Rocks have been without centre-halves Corey Heath and Keaton Wood with long-term ankle injuries. Heath is now back in trainig but Wood faces at least another four to six weeks out.
Right-back Calvin Davies may need surgery on a knee injury picked up a month ago.
Bognor have been boosted by the loan arrival of midfielder Theo Widdrington and he is with them until the end of January – while an extension to that arrangement may be possible.
And young Pompey attacking duo Brad Lethbridge and Dan Smith should be available on Saturday, though there is always the chance Pompey will call them back.
Pearce said: “It was a good win at Whitehawk and it’s been nice to get a good number of points on the board over the holiday period.
“I’m not sure we played any better or worse than we have in many games this season but we took our chances and defended well – sometimes that’s the only difference between winning and losing.
“It gives us some momentum but you can’t take anything for granted. We play Carshalton next and they are a useful side, another I’d say we are capable of beating but also capable of losing to. That’s the situation we’re in most weeks – it’s that sort of league.
“We have some very good players but it’s difficult getting them all out at the same time.”
Pearce was delighted to see Jimmy Muitt net twice in four minutes to set up the win at Whitehawk. The striker always works hard but has missed some great chances in recent weeks.
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“He’s a very talented footballer but sometimes has lacked self-confidence in front of goal. Scoring a couple will hopefully see him gain in confidence and we obviously hope he’ll carry on scoring,” the manager said.
Defender Ed Sanders, who has filled in at right-back in Davies’ absence, is suspended on Saturday after being sent off late in the draw with Lewes. But centre-half Gary Charman, who was substituted in the second half at Whitehawk, should be fine.
Coach Robbie Blake said he was unhappy with some of Bognor’s defensive and midfield play in the first half at Whitehawk, even when they were 2-0 up. But he felt his team bossed the second half.
He added: “I’m really pleased – we’ve got seven points out of nine over the festive period which is really good.
“I thought Doug Tuck was outstanding in the second half. He showed how much quality he has.
“What pleased me was that we scored two in the second half going up that hill with tired legs.”
Blake said the squad were now keen to put together an unbeaten run like the one that gave them a flying start to the season.
“We’re on a good run and w’ve got to take that into Saturday’s game and keep pushing and trying to get as high as we can. We have the ability in the dressing room.
“Carshalton will be another tough game. They’re quite a physical team but we have to take the initiative to them. The lads are on a bit of a high so we need to keep that going.”
Get the first report from Rocks v Carshalton on this website on Saturday