JAMIE HOWELL ran the rule over some new recruits in their first Rocks appearances – then declared himself delighted with the way his new-look squad was shaping up.
The manager gave starts to five new players and introduced a clutch of youngsters in the second half as Bognor put up a good display despite losing 2-1 to a youthful Stoke City XI on Tuesday night.
New Rocks keeper Chris Winterton, forwards Darren Wheeler and Alex Parsons and midfielders Charlie Oatway and Jake Thomson were the new names in the starting line-up and all impressed in different ways.
Winterton, who pulled off a string of top-class saves in the second half, was probably the biggest eye-catcher, while Parsons and Wheeler showed enough up front to suggest they could help the club get over the departure to Lewes of last season’s top scorer Terry Dodd.
Youth-team regulars Johan van Driel, Dale Hayes and Ryan Morey all appeared from the bench, while former Pompey striker Lewis Horsburgh is another hoping to force his way into Howell’s plans.
All the newcomers to the squad are set for another chance to impress when Andy Awford brings a large Pompey squad to Nyewood Lane for Saturday’s showpiece friendly. It kicks off at 1pm and with a crowd of 2,000-plus expected, fans are advised to arrive early.
Howell was happy with his side’s first match, which came just 58 days after the final game of last season. His team were a good match for their visitors despite being up against a professional outfit who are well into their pre-season schedule.
The boss said: “I was really pleased. It went better than I expected. We made a good game of it and the new guys all did well and have mixed well with the players who were here last year.”
Howell praised ex-Whitehawk keeper Winterton for his solid debut and said: “He’s a brilliant signing. His communication and all-round play are excellent. It’s key having a goalkeeper you can depend on and that’s what we have in Chris.
“I was delighted with Alex and Darren up front. They linked up well for our goal and are both players who can play in different positions, wide and centrally.”
More familiar faces to Rocks fans, such as Craig Robson, Doug Tuck and Ben Johnson, also looked sharp and ready for another attempt at league and cup success.
Midfielder Harvey Whyte’s second-half appearance from the bench showed he was putting recent injury problems behind him.
Howell warned: “It was only the first game and I’m not getting carried away. We still need a couple more players but we have a good base to work from.”
Pompey’s visit – which for Awford’s team follows a 4-0 win at Havant last Saturday – will be another stiff test for the Rocks, not to mention their tannoy announcer, with the Blues management set to field up to 26 players over the 90 minutes including all their biggest names.
Howell said: “It’s a massive day for the club. Last year, we gave them a good game and had a huge crowd in – it was fantastic. We want this year to be the same.
“Andy (Awford) knows us well at Bognor – he was assistant manager here a few years ago – and knows how important this game is to us.
“It’s great that he’s willing to bring his team over and we’re keen to give them a proper game. It’s no good to them coming over here and winning 9-0, it needs to be competitive.”