PRIDE. The one word uttered the most as the Rocks reflected on one of their greatest achievements.
The players were proud, the management were proud, the fans were proud.
And no wonder.
Bognor had just beaten Sutton United – the sixth higher-division team they had overcome this season – to reach the quarter-finals of the FA Trophy.
It means they are just two rounds from the Wembley final, with a home quarter-final to come on Feburary 27 against one of two National League premier sides, Torquay or Macclesfield.
Manager Jamie Howell said: “Pride is the over-riding feeling – pride that we got the win but pride too that we played so well and deserved it.
In each round of the Trophy we have sent the players out believing they can win, and they haven’t let us down one bit.Jamie Howell
“You don’t get as far as we have in the FA Trophy and beat so many teams from higher divisions without deserving it.
“You may be able to beat one team with luck but it doesn’t get you this far.
“It was a night for the whole club to be proud – from the people who got the pitch ready after it looked like we’d be washed out, to the fans who supported us, and everyone in between.
“I felt we deserved the draw at Sutton and deserved to win the replay. We’ve played a very good side for 210 minutes and beaten them on merit.”
Coach Darin Killpartrick said his phone had not stopped since Tuesday, when a crowd of 941 packed into the Lane to see the replay.
“I’ve had messages from people I’ve not spoken to in years, or managers of clubs I barely know,” he said.
“And I think the whole of Sussex is with us.
“In each round of the Trophy we have sent the players out believing they can win, and they haven’t let us down one bit.
“The same’s true of our fans, who have been out of this world.”
Bognor had to beat Bath City of National League South just to get to the first round.
They then overcame another NLS team, Maidstone, away from home and Altrincham of National premier at Nyewood Lane to set up the Sutton tie.
The Rocks’ Trophy run has got them through six rounds and earned them £27,950.
After all their scalps in the Trophy and the FA Cup, the prospect of taking on Torquay or Macclesfield in the last eight holds no fear.
Howell said: “It’ll be another very tough game – every team left in the Trophy is very strong. But we will go into it with confidence and the place will be packed.”
For now, Trophy talk ceases and the team get back to league and Sussex Senior Cup business.
They host Brentwood in the Ryman premier on Saturday and Burgess Hill in the SSC on Tuesday –their 28th and 29th home matches of this remarkable season.
They’ll be without Harvey Whyte – now out for a month with a hamstring tear – but everyone else is fit and Pompey loanee Calvin Davies impressed hugely in Whyte’s absence on Tuesday.
Howell is looking to bring in one or two more players on loan.
“We have an awful lot of games coming up and we’ll need all the bodies we can get,” he said.
Striker Ollie Pearce, one of Tuesday night’s heroes with an influential display as a sub, is banned for three games – starting Saturday – for a red card picked up against Hampton on January 30.
Howell will not allow the players to bask in any glory.
“Whatever else is happening, promotion’s our aim and will have to be on the ball on Saturday,” he said.
“The same goes for the Sussex Senior Cup next week. We’ve reached the quarter-finals of that too and it’s an important competition too.
“We’ve had a fantastic season but won nothing yet.”
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