Bognor have beaten 'the best' - can they beat the rest?
Bognor’s bosses described their 4-1 beating of Enfield under the Nyewood Lane lights as one of the best results of the season.
A Dan Smith hat-trick and a wonder-strike by centre-half Joe Cook gave the Rocks their sixth win in an unbeaten run of seven Isthmian premier games – and left them just three points off a play-off spot.
The torrid start to the campaign, when they managed just one win and one draw in their first seven league games, has been forgotten as the team entertain supporters with an attacking style of play that’s bringing goals and victories.
Manager Jack Pearce and coach Robbie Blake are delighted at the difference seen since the likes of goalkeeper Amadou Tangara and defender Cook were brought in to strengthen the side, a pair whose influence was also seen in a gritty 0-0 draw away to Hornchurch last Saturday.
Smith was Tuesday night’s MoM with a hat-trick although Cook was sharing the limelight after his rocket of a shot from 30 yards that made the points safe after ten-man Enfield had threatened a comeback.
Now Bognor go to another of the leading sides, Carshalton, on Saturday to try to keep the momentum going and enter the festive period in the thick of the promotion race.
Pearce said: “Results will always be the most important thing but the performance against Enfield was certainly pleasing too.
“I thought Enfield were one of the best teams to come to the Lane, but we got the rub of the green at vital times – as with the goal they had disallowed.
“Two of our goals – Dan’s first and Joe’s – were very special. Both were incredible finishes.
“We gave the supporters good value for money which I was pleased about because we had more than 400 there on a night when Pompey were at home and there were Premier League games on TV. We really appreciate that support.”
Although Smith and Cook grabbed the headlines, the second-half performance of sub Ben Mendoza also got fans excited.
The new recruit from Worthing was involved in all the Rocks’ best attacking play and looks a very useful addition – as, in Saturday’s draw at Hornchurch, did versatile Ross Edwards, also signed from Worthing.
Pearce said: “We’re pleased to have brought both of them in and they’ve started well. Ross suffered a bruised toe against Hornchurch but won’t be out for long.”
Edwards, Mason Walsh (hamstring) and Tommy Leigh (clash of heads) are all minor doubts for the Carshalton trip.
With Pompey recalling striker Brad Lethbridge and midfielder Josh Flint for Fratton Park duties in midweek, Bognor’s new additions are vital and Pearce said he was content with the size and quality of the squad.
But he warned that the tough fixtures kept on coming. Before Christmas the Rocks face Carshalton, Cray and Corinthian Casuals in the league, plus Horsham YMCA (at home next Tuesday in the Sussex Senior Cup) and Folkestone (away, Velocity Trophy, December 21).
Pearce said: “I maintain that for a lot of the teams in our league, there is a hair’s breadth between them.
“You can beat any of them, but any of them can beat you.”
We've come a long way
Robbie Blake was purring after Tuesday’s win over Enfield – and reflected: We’ve come a long way.
The Rocks coach watched Dan Smith’s treble and Joe Cook’s long-range special earn a 4-1 success and said: “Enfield are a really good team. In my opinion they’re the best team that have come here.
“We struggled to contain them early on but got to grips with them. I was pleased with our performance.
“We’ve come a long way. We’re full of confidence and even the centre-halves are scoring! We’ve put ourselves in a good position.”
Blake said Smith’s goals showed his obvious quality. “Jack (Pearce) said his first goal was one of the best he’d seen in 50 years at the Lane!
“It was a complete performance from Dan. I’m pretty sure he’ll be targetting getting to 20 goals before Christmas, but we do need other players chipping in with goals.”
Blake said Cook’s goal was ‘unbelievable’ and the player was also part of a defence that looked solid again. “It was disappointing the way we conceded the goal but to beat Enfield 4-1 at home, we’ll take.
“We’re on the way up and we need to keep going.”
Blake vowed they would not be going to Carshalton thinking of getting a draw. “They’re all tough games but we feel as a group we have this momentum going and desire to do well. The team have got a good work ethic.”