Jamie Howell hopes the arrival of striker Elijah Adebayo will boost the Rocks at a vital stage of their bid for league and cup success.
The teenager – whose hat-trick knocked Bognor out of the FA Trophy earlier in the season – has joined them on loan from Fulham and made an immediate impact by winning the penalty that set up their Sussex Senior Cup win at Shoreham on Tuesday night.
Adebayo is likely to feature in this week’s crucial back-to-back home league clashes with promotion rivals Enfield and Needham Market, but boss Howell is anxious that fans don’t place too much expectation on his young shoulders.
The new man arrives at Nyewood Lane with the Rocks in fine form. A 2-1 Ryman premier win at home to Billericay on Satyurday, which kept them a point clear at the top, was followed by a 3-1 success at Shoreham which has earned them their fifth county cup semi-final in eight seasons.
James Fraser scored the late winner from the spot to settle a feisty clash with Billericay and netted another penalty at Shoreham to go further clear at the top of the club’s goalscoring charts.
Now all eyes will be on how Adebayo can boost the side’s firepower, although Howell is urging caution.
“Elijah was superb for Slough against us in the FA Trophy in October and we have been keeping en eye on him. I know Neil Baker, who is on the management team at Slough, and he let me know when he was surplus to their requirements and had gone back to Fulham.
“Last week it looked like Elijah would be going to a National League club but when that didn’t happen we were able to get him. He’s with us for a month and we’ll see how it goes.
“People mustn’t think he’s going to score a hat-trick every game. He’s very young and learning his trade but I think he’ll do well for us . He’s strong and physical and will create chances for others as well as hopefully scoring one or two himself.”
Adebayo’s addition is timely for another striker, Jimmy Wild, will be out for three or four weeks with a knee injury – a strained medial ligament. But other knocks and niggles are clearing up and Howell looks like having almost a full squad to select from for the Enfield and Needham games.
Midfield maestro Dan Beck was back on the bench at Shoreham after two months on the sidelines. Howell said it was thought Beck had torn a muscle in his groin and suffered nerve damage, and still needed to be monitored – but could play again soon.
The manager was delighted with the performance against Billericay – who arrived in town fresh from a big injection of cash and new players – and said these were exciting times at the Lane.
“We did struggle a bit against Billericay but that’s because they’re a good side – they have added some ex-Conference players. I was delighted we overcame letting in a fairly late equaliser to go on and win it.
“Shoreham gave us a test. They went 1-0 up and felt they should have had a penalty that could have made it 2-0 but we came back well in the second half. I like the Sussex Senior Cup and it’s lovely to be in the semis again, one game from playing at the Amex again, though there are some strong teams still in it.”
Howell expects Enfield, who are sixth, and Needham Market, currently second, to give the Rocks stern tests in the coming week.
“Enfield always seem to have a strong second half of the season and end up in the promotion picture, while Needham Market have probably had a season a bit like ours, in that many will be surprised to see them flying high,” said Howell.
“What pleases me is that after a period where we were getting through games on desire but performances weren’t the best, we now seem to have got the quality back too. That’s important - you can’t win leagues on desire alone.
“The players are giving their all and it will be difficult to know who to leave out on Saturday.”
Bognor do not yet know if left-side utility man Dylan Barnett will be available for the next two games. He was on the bench for Brighton in their Checkatrade Trophy loss at Coventry on Tuesday.
Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking sports news where you live.
Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be among the first to know what’s going on.
1 Make this website your homepage
2 Like our Facebook page at facebook.com/pages/Sport-Sussex
3 Follow us on Twitter @SportSussex
4 Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.
Share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!