Bognor ponder selection problems for Worthing derby after losing key man Cook

Bognor begin life after Joe Cook when they host Worthing on New Year's Day - with boss Jack Pearce admitting his recall by Havant is a major blow.

Tuesday, 31st December 2019, 11:48 am
Joe Cook is back in a Havant shirt after being recalled from his Rocks loan spell / Picture: Dave Haines

The centre-half, who the Rocks had hoped to have on loan for the season, is back at West Leigh Park after boss Paul Doswell decided on a shake-up of his defensive options, partially sparked by injuries.

Cook had been a Rocks rock at the heart of the defence since joining three months ago - his arrival coinciding with a great run of form which has taken Bognor from the bottom six to the fringes of the race for a play-off spot.

Cook went back into the Havant team for their win at Hungerford - while what would have been the Rocks' first game without him, at Lewes the same day, was called off an hour or so before the scheduled start because of heavy rain.

Bognor are likely to use James Crane or Joe Dandy - or both - alongside Keaton Wood as they welcome high-flying Worthing to Nyewood Lane for the much-anticipated derby on New Year's Day (3pm).

Pearce said: "Joe had been superb for us and we were very sorry to have to let him go back to Havant. We've not had any luck with the availability of defenders for quite some time now and we'll have to look at our options. Certainly finding one to bring into the squad at this time of year is not easy."

The Rocks have also lost the services of utility man Ross Edwards, one of two ex-Worthing players they signed a few weeks ago. He has decided to take a break from football. Ironically the other - Ben Mendoza - who had looked promising in his early Bognor appearances, is injured.

In addition Pearce expects that forward Brad Lethbridge and winger Mason Walsh are likely to be no more than fit enough to be among the substitutes.

Worthing beat Bognor 3-0 at Woodside Road in August and Rocks fans will be keen to see their side level things up for the campaign tomorrow.

Pearce said: "Worthing are level on points with the leaders after 21 games and you don't get to that position without being a good team. They're capable of beating anyone in the league, including us, but for our part, on our day, we're capable of beating anyone, including them."

A bumper crowd, possibly around the 1,000 mark, is expected and fans are urged not to leave it too late before arriving.