Bognor players told: Your backsides will be kicked if you play at Enfield like you did against Brightlingsea
Be better in both boxes – and watch the play-offs become a reality.
That was coach Robbie Blake’s assessment after the Rocks took four points from two home games which showed plenty of promise but also a number of areas of concern.
Bognor continue to let in soft goals and miss a hatful of chances - even if a return of four wins and two draws from their past six league games suggest they’re motoring nicely.
They needed a Dan Smith equaliser to rescue a point against Kingstonian on Saturday, then on Tuesday night almost let Brightlingsea Regent nab an unlikely point by missing enough chances to win several games after Smith (2) and Mason Walsh had scored to put them 3-1 up inside 20 minutes.
Now the Rocks head to Enfield with every chance of breaking into the play-off zone but with Blake warning the squad: “We’ll get our backsides kicked if we play like we did on Tuesday.”
He said of the midweek win, in which Regent made it 3-2 when down to ten men because of injuries: “It summed up our season, didn’t it? We created so many chances it’s hard to believe it finished 3-2 but that’s football. If you don’t take your chances you’re susceptible to conceding late on and you can end up hanging on in a game when you should have been out of sight.
“I said to the players afterwards the three points was the most important thing but performance wise that’s not a performance that’ll get us in to the top five.
“We’re delighted with the result but we know if we go to Enfield and play anything like that we’ll probably get our backsides kicked. I don’t think we’ll play like that.
“Brightlingsea were quite decent and it wasn’t an easy game but we made it tough for ourselves at the end. Going forward we’ve got to be better. Our final pass and our decision-making has got to be better, our shooting and finishing has been poor. You have to tell the players this – if you don’t you are papering over the cracks.
“And we were sitting too deep when they only had ten men. You invite pressure and you can always concede, s we’ve seen.
“We’re disappointed in terms of the goals we’ve given away because I can’t remember the last time we had a clean sheet. We’ve got to be better in both boxes.
“Please don’t think this is negative. I’m buzzing, I’m delighted we got the three points but I’m frustrated with certain aspects of our game.”
Blake said the players had been told to start on the front foot after struggling in a number of home matches in which they have gone behind early. This time they struck first when Smith’s first goal arrived with a bit of help from the Regent keeper.
“It’s the first time we got a bit of fortune, with the goal. The setback came and it was 1-1 but we regrouped and scored another two. But we took our foot off the gas in the final 15 minutes of the first half and that puts you under pressure and can make you draw games,” Blake said.
“We controlled the second half and created so many chances but weren’t good enough to take them. It was bad finishing and bad execution.
“Then they scored a goal out of nothing but after they scored it they didn’t really go after us or press us which I was pleased about. We got over the line which was the most important thing.”
New midfield loanee Jake Flannigan was MoM on Tuesday and Blake was purring about a player Bognor are keen to keep.
“Anybody who likes football would say Jake was head and shoulders above everybody on the pitch. He was outstanding – his manipulation of the ball, his awareness of where he is on the pitch, he very very rarely gives the ball away and out of possession he is good as well. We’re really pleased to have Jake and hopefully we’ve got him for a while.
“We’d love to have him for the rest of the season. You can see his qualities. That’s someone you’d love to keep. He’s enjoying himself, he’s playing games, he likes the way we play. He’s settled in and seems like a great lad.”
Blake admitted he was livid with dynamic duo Dan Smith and Brad Lethbridge for chances and good positions wasted and said they and winger Mason Walsh knew their work in the final third needed to be better.
“We know what they can do and need to see it on a more regular basis, and if we do we can blow teams away,” he said. “You’ve always got to try to squeeze more out of people. They can so much better and I’ve told them.”
Nevertheless he praised the whole squad for the run of form since October that had seen them rise to just outside the top five.
Blake added: “From the start to the season we had, which was car-crash, the boys deserve great credit. Throughout all the times when we were losing and letting in sloppy goals, they always worked hard. The lads have been different class in terms of work-rate, work ethic and team spirit.
“They’ve come a long way since the first seven or eight games. when we were dead and buried. It shows great courage and resilience to do that. We were playing catch-up and we have caught up, if not to the level of Folkestone and Worthing, who with Kingstonian are the best teams in the league.
“We like to think the crowd are seeing what we’re doing. We’ve got a lot of young lads and they’re only going to improve - Tommy Leigh, Ashton Leigh, people like that. They’re grasping what we’re trying to do. And the lads that have come from Pompey, they’ve got the quality or technical ability but they’re not used to this physicality or mentality. They’ll get it.”
Blake said he hoped centre-half Joe Cook would be fit to return to the squad for Saturday’s trip to Enfield after missing the past two games.
Left-sided utility man Ashton Leigh is not 100 per cent fit but there are no new injury problems.
Blake said Saturday’s hosts Enfield had a good manager and were a well-run club who would give the Rocks a test despite only two wins from their past six.
“It will be a tough game, we expect a tough challenge, and if we play like we did against Brightlingsea we’ll struggle to get something from it – but I don’t think we will play like that.
“The incentive now is that if we win that game we probably jump into the top five, which is a big carrot for everybody.”
After the weekend Bognor turn their attentions to their defence of the Sussex Senior Cup. They host Brighton under-23s - who they beat 5-1 in the semis last year - in a quarter-final on Tuesday (7.45pm).