We won’t go overboard about being top of the table – and we won’t panic at a disappointing home defeat.
That’s the message from the Bognor camp after their promotion hopes suffered a setback as an injury-time goal sent them spinning to defeat against bottom side Grays on Saturday.
Frustration followed in midweek when their game at Burgess Hill, a good chance to get straight back to winning ways, fell victim to a waterlogged pitch less than half an hour before kick-off.
Instead the Rocks look to renew their bid for glory with back-to-back away games at two lowly-placed teams, Harrow and Hendon – and boss Jamie Howell says home defeats to Hendon and Grays are proof, if needed, that the league table is meaningless when facing struggling sides.
Bognor were well below par against Grays and lost to a 95th-minute sucker-punch after James Fraser’s 85th-minute header looked to have saved a point.
Howell said: “We were poor, there’s no getting away from it. We let in a sloppy early goal then didn’t get a shot in, or hardly a decent cross, in the whole first half.
“We had a go in the second half and deserved to draw level, I think, and I thought we might win it. Then we got done in injury time and ended up with nothing.
“I’ve said all along, we’re going to have a blip. We’re not going to win every game. We might get back to winning at Harrow or Hendon but we might not. And even if we were to win both those, we could then easily lose our next home game.
“It’s that sort of league and the bottom team beating the top team proves the point.
“But we’ve got ourselves into a good position in the league and we just need to keep working hard and getting the basics right to give ourselves a chance.
“I’m not going to criticise the players because they’ve been brilliant to get us where we are. No-one would have expected us to be top going into Feburary.
“We know we need to keep going, taking it week by week, and grinding out results. But we know Harrow and then Hendon will both give us very difficult games.”
Howell was upset the game at Burgess Hill was lost. Despite rain throughout Tuesday, the Hillians insisted the pitch was okay – but the nearer kick-off got, the more it looked like the game would not go ahead.
Howell said it could have been called off earlier to save fans, players and staff from travelling, but accepted that technically, officials had been right to give the game as much chance as possible.
There’s no new date for that trip yet but the Rocks do now know their Sussex Senior Cup semi-final opponents – Crawley Town. The match will be played on either Tuesday, February 21.
In the meantime the Rocks are concentrating on the trips to Harrow and Hendon in the coming week.
Striker Jimmy Wild has recovered from a knee injury but has yet to train much, so is likely to be on the bench or be sent to Chichester City for game time.
Utility man Gary Charman picked up a painful rib injury against Grays but is unlikely to be out for long.
Otherwise, Howell has a full squad to select from, with Elijah Adebayo’s initial month on loan not quite up yet and no word yet on whether Fulham will allow him to stay longer.
Teenage midfielder Tommy Block has joined the Rocks but is likely to play more for Chichester than Bognor as Howell and coach Darin Killpartrick monitor his progress with a view to the future.
Howell was delighted to have midfielder master Dan Beck back in the starting line-up on Saturday after three months out injured and said: “He’ll get sharper with games, and having the sort of experience he and others like Gary Charman and Sami El-Abd bring will be important in a young team in an important period of games.”
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