Jamie Howell wants Bognor to put their latest semi-final heartbreak behind them – and give their all in 12 ‘cup finals’ in the league.
The Rocks lost at the semi-final stage of the Sussex Senior Cup for the second year in succession when they went down 3-2 in extra-time to League Two Crawley at county FA HQ on Tuesday.
It was a carbon copy of their semi-final defeat to Eastbourne Borough a year ago, which came shortly before they lost in the two-legged semi-final of the FA Trophy to Grimsby.
Howell was proud of his players for reaching another semi-final, although was disappointed by the poor defending he said contributed to each of Crawley’s three goals.
Now he wants the squad to focus on the one mission left this season – to try to win promotion from the Ryman premier.
The Rocks head into their final 12 games leading the standings by four points but with a number of challengers close on their heels and with a number of games to come against top-five sides – starting with a visit to third-placed Needham Market this Saturday.
Bognor play fifh-placed Leiston home and away in March and go to Havant, who are currently second with two games in hand over the Rocks, in the penultimate match on Easter Monday.
Howell reflected on the county cup loss (see a gallery of Tim Hale’s pictures from the game, above) and said: “We worked so hard to get to the last minute of extra-time, then let in a very disappointing goal.
“In fact we didn’t defend well for any of their three goals, which is a shame when so many put in so much effort to match a professional full-time team. It was hard to swallow.
“Losing a semi-final is never a nice feeling but now have got to focus on the 12 league games we have left and treat each one like a cup final.
“I will accept wherever we end up as long as every player has given absolutely everything in every one of those games. We may fall short, we may not, but if we have shown 100 per cent desire and determination I will accept that and I think fans would say the same.
“We must fight for every single point and I want to see that every player shares the desire to succeed that Dabba (Killpartrick) and I and the senior players have.”
Bognor have defied the expectations of many – including themselves – to go into the last week of February in top spot, in a season most felt would be one of rebuilding after the loss of half a dozen key players last summer.
But the longer they stay top, the greater the expectations grow that they might stay there and claim the one automatic promotion spot and avoid another foray into the play-offs.
They did their chances no harm with a hard-earned 2-0 win at play-off-chasing Wingate and Finchley on Saturday thanks to goals by Chad Field and James Crane.
Howell said: “I didn’t think we were particularly fluent at Wingate but we were well-organised and defended well. We’re not scoring enough goals for my liking at the moment but we have a goalkeeper and back four performing very well.
“We go to Needham Market on Saturday and that will be difficult. They have had a couple of poor results lately but that could make them more dangerous. Games against the other sides at the top are all going to be vital.”
Winger Alex Parsons, out for at least another ten days with a nasty cut to his foot, is the only man unavailable.
Howell has been pleased with the impact of new striker Charlie Moone but said the team needed to give him better service. “We need to be better in the attacking box generally,” he said.
Bognor have no game next Tuesday but host Leatherhead on Saturday week.
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