Bognor are down to the bare bones as a new injury crisis threatens their bid to keep pace with the Ryman premier pacesetters.
They had only three substitutes for last Saturday’s trip to Leatherhead – and will be without all three of their senior centre-halves for Saturday’s home clash with Hendon.
Boss Jamie Howell is weighing up whether he needs to bring in reinforcements. He would rather cope with his existing squad if he can, but he admits that could be tough with a hectic schedule of games coming up.
In the past week the Rocks have lost striker Jimmy Wild to a freak training-ground collision which left him with a broken jaw and centre-half Chad Field to a hamstring strain – while midfielder Dan Beck’s hip flexor problem has flared up again.
With Gary Charman still recovering from a broken foot and Sami El-Abd unavailable this weekend through work commitments, that gives the Rocks a major defensive headache.
They’re likely to use Ed Sanders and young Brighton loanee Tom Cadman at the heart of the defence, while El-Abd will be available again next Tuesday when old rivals Kingstonian visit Nyewood Lane.
Up front, Wild is likely to be out for three to six weeks although does not need surgery, and with another Brighton academy player Thomas Byrne having now gone back to Ireland, Bognor are left with Ollie Pearce and Jimmy Muitt as their only recognised strikers.
Among the bad news is the good – the Rocks are still in fine form and Pearce and Muitt were both on target, along with winger Alex Parsons, in a 3-1 win at Leatherhead that took the team back to the top of the league.
They were displaced again by Havant’s win at Worthing on Tuesday but go into a busy period of league action in good heart.
Howell described the win at Leatherhead as ‘a strange game’. “In the first half Leatherhead were very deep and almost inviting us on to them, and we scored. After that it was very cagey.
“When they equalised they had the momentum and we were thinking we’d do well to get away with a point, but then late on Alex produced a moment of brilliance and Ollie wrapped it up – very pleasing.
“It was nice to go top again but we are really struggling with numbers now. We’ve lost Jimmy to a broken jaw – we were playing a warm-up game of throw-head-catch and he basically headbutted Darren Budd’s back. He simply didn’t see him.
“Chad came off at Leatherhead with a hamstring strain and is looking at two or three weeks out and Dan’s hip flexor problem has flared up again and I wouldn’t think he’d feature this weekend.”
Howell said he had complete faith in the likes of Sanders and Cadman being pitched in. And he said utility man Harvey Whyte – in the latter stages of recovery from a knee injury suffered in a pre-season win at Pagham – could appear very soon, though he was anxious not to expect too much too soon.
“The thing with our squad is the one to 11 is still very strong but there’s not much depth. We had three subs on Saturday and I’m looking around now thinking who can fill which position on Saturday.
“Loans are a possibility but it’s not ideal bringing in new players who then have to learn the way we play. I’d rather not have to do that but if we do we do. And it’s not easy getting in good players at this stage of the season.”
Coach Darin Killpartrick praised the spirit in the camp that has seen Bognor win six of their past seven Ryman premier matches.
“The spirit is the best we’ve had for years, I’d say,” said Killpartrick. “We’ve done well to get 36 points on the board by this stage and just need to keep going. We’re ten points off staying up!
“The next few weeks are Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday-Tuesday and will really test us. We just need to keep going.”
Hendon arrive at the Lane on Saturday in 18th place but the Rocks will be aware they have chalked up some good results away from their new 3G pitch. Kingstonian’s visit follows next Tuesday and Harrow and Leiston are also due in town before Christmas, along with Horsham, who the Rocks will host in round three of the Sussex Senior Cup.
Get the first Rocks report from every game at www.bognor.co.uk
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