It’s the hurt and the hope for the Rocks

Kane Wills leads Bognor out for the final time at the Amex  Picture by Chris Hatton
Kane Wills leads Bognor out for the final time at the Amex Picture by Chris Hatton

FRUSTRATED and hurt - but keen to lead another bid for glory.

That about sums up the mixed feelings Rocks boss Jamie Howell is experiencing after seeing his goal-shy team lose 3-0 in the Sussex Senior Cup final.

The defeat – coming a fortnight after they lost to Lowestoft in the Ryman premier play-offs – left everyone at the club feeling rather flat.

Yet when the dust settles, they will be able to reflect positively on a season which saw them go close to promotion and reach their third county cup final in five years.

Howell’s frustration – evident in his strong words immediately after Peacehaven had lifted the trophy when he said he felt shellshocked and humiliated – was that the club had not been able to bring in another goalscorer to support Ollie Pearce and Terry Dodd at a point in the season where their flow of goals started to run dry.

With Dan Thompson suspended and Ben Johnson and Harvey Whyte injured, the Rocks were desperately short of attacking options on Sunday to turn to when it was obvious the 11 on the pitch were struggling to find the net, despite being on top.

Howell said they had tried over a long time to bring in that key striker but were not able to compete financially with many other clubs playing at the same level, which he totally understood.

“The fact we couldn’t score was why we lost in the play-offs and why we lost the cup final,” he said.

“I’m hurt and upset that we lost that game but still proud of what we achieved this season. At the final whistle I looked up to the stand and saw the Pullens and other Bognor legends and they were hurting too. We so wanted to win that cup, but couldn’t do it.”

One of Howell’s post-match comments on Sunday sparked questions over whether he would still be manager next season.

But he told the Observer yesterday: “I love being Bognor’s manager. I’m proud to do the job and I enjoy it. This season we’ve done well and I’ve had excellent support from Dabba (Killpartrick) and Jack (Pearce).

“If I’ve got things wrong the club will tell me and do something about it. But I hope they don’t want to make a change. I want to continue to do my best to get the team to achieve as much as they can with the resources available to us.”

Howell believes the squad needs new life injecting into for next season but not major surgery. And he said he was confident of filling the void left by captain Kane Wills’ departure to Ryman premier big-spenders Margate on Monday. The Kent side had already splashed out big money on former Rocks striker Jason Prior.

Doug Tuck and Scott Chamberlain are the existing squad members who could vie for Wills’ midfield role while a new recruit is not out of the question.

Howell said: “Kane is one of the best players in this division – if not the best – and it’s a big gap to fill. But people said the same when Michael Birmingham retired, and that’s when we pitched Kane into that role. We’re always looking to the future with the squad we have.”

No-one else has left and Howell said he would be talking to players once this weekend’s player presentation night was over.

They may need to bring in a goalkeeper after using Brighton loanee Grant Smith for the second half of this season, while the regular search for a goalscorer is bound to resume.