Bognor hit by new injury blows - but are warned big improvements are needed
Bognor have been hit by a new spate of injuries just as they try to mount a play-off push - but have also been told to pull their socks up if they want to keep alive any hopes of making the end-of-season promotion showdowns.
The Rocks lost midfield duo Doug Tuck and Jake Flannigan in the first half of last Saturday’s forgettable trip to Enfield, where a 2-0 defeat blew their hopes of moving into the top five.
Tuck (heel) and Flannigan (hamstring) could both be missing for two or three weeks, while centre-half Joe Cook - who has been their best defender this season - was today (Thursday) having a scan on a knee injury that may keep out for a few weeks, and winger Mason Walsh continues to be troubled by a hip and hamstring problem.
They will at least welcome back skipper Harvey Whyte after suspension when they host Bishop’s Stortford on Saturday, but coach Robbie Blake has warned the whole squad their attitude needs to show a big improvement on the showing at Enfield, where two second-half goals brought their first defeat in seven.
Midfielder joins on loan from BournemouthBognor manager Jack Pearce revealed he was stepping up efforts this week to bring in a new face or two because of the latest injuries, but warned it was not an easy time in the season to tempt quality players.
He was upset at some comments from supporters after the Enfield game wondering whether ‘the dream’ was over and said any club would struggle for form after losing almost half the first-choice team to injuries and suspensions.
Pearce said: “I’m glad we’re not in the bottom half - goodness knows what the reaction would be then! Since the start of the Kingstonian game, which was less than a fortnight ago, we’ve lost almost half the team.
“Joe Cook has picked up another injury and we don’t know yet how long he will be out for, and he is crucial to our defence. Mason Walsh is still struggling and is nowhere near 100 per cent and now we have lost Doug Tuck and Jake Flannigan.
“If anyone thinks we have the resources to cope with that without any effect on our play or to bring in like-for-like replacements they are living in cloud cuckooland.”
Pearce said it was wrong to write off the team’s chances of a play-off place with 14 games and 42 points to play for and added: “No one wants to get in the play-offs or win promotion more than I do.”
That said, the management know many more performances like the lacklustre one at Enfield - even taking into account the double injury blow - and the hope of a top-five finish will fade fast.
Bognor, who are eighth, host 16th-placed Bishop’s Stortford on Saturday then visit 15th-placed Haringey seven days later. In between, next Wednesday, they are at home to Brighton under-23s in their Sussex Senior Cup quarter-final.
The tie was postponed on Tuesday after damage to the covering over the terrace at the clubhouse end of Nyewood Lane. The new date means the Isthmian premier derby at Horsham has been pushed back to Tuesday, March 10.
Coach Robbie Blake said the Enfield game showed Bognor had a long way to go to reach the levels of consistency needed to mount a promotion push.
Speaking after the game, Blake said: “Not enough players turned up on the day and in that situation you get found out. We had three players who deserve a little bit of credit.
“Then Doug had a problem with his heel and Jake tweaked his hamstring. It’s the story of the season.
“It could have been 7-0 and Amadou (Tangara) was great. It’s just a shame he didn’t have anything in front of him. At the moment we’re so poor in both boxes it’s not true.
“We’re at a crucial time of the season if we want to get into the top five. I apologise to the supporters and we deserve all the stick we get.
“We were naive, lacked aggression, lacked penetration, lacked in so many areas – and it’s resulted in us getting beaten.
“I know how important that game was. If we’d won we’d have gone into the play-off zone, there should be no bigger incentive, you shouldn’t need to do a team talk.”