Rocks and the FA Cup: Stay focused to stay in

The Rocks battle away at Whitstable / Picture by Tommy McMillan
The Rocks battle away at Whitstable / Picture by Tommy McMillan

The Rocks have been handed a big chance to make further FA Cup progress – but need to stay focused to stay in the competition.

After a professional job to see off lower-league Whitstable in Saturday’s first qualifying round, Bognor have been drawn at home to AFC Sudbury in the next round.

The Bostik north outfit, who will visit Nyewood Lane for the second qualifying round match on Saturday week, play one league below the Rocks but knocked then manager Jamie Howell’s team out of the FA Trophy a few seasons ago.

The tie will have fans thinking about the third qualifying round – which is just two away from the first round proper – but Rocks manager Jack Pearce is warning against anyone getting ahead of themselves.

Goals from Jimmy Muitt (2), Brad Lethbridge, Dan Smith and Mason Walsh, including a couple more goal-of-the-season contenders, saw off Bostik south east outfit Whitstable and took the team’s goal tally to 20 in seven games.

Pearce said: “All you can hope for in the FA Cup is a home draw and we have that. The biggest danger is that everyone will think we will win and the minute complacency sets in, it can be very dangerous. You can easily come unstuck.

“Upsets are what makes the FA Cup special and in my experience, they normally happen not because underdogs play out of their skin but because the bigger clubs under-estimate them.

“We were professional in how we went about the tie at Whitstable and we must adopt the same attitude against AFC Sudbury.”

The Rocks earned £6,000 from Saturday’s win and would get another £9,000 were they to get past AFC Sudbury.

Pearce said: “We did okay at Whitstable. I was pleased but we still allowed them too many chances and half chances.

“When it’s 5-0 and their goalkeeper is man of the match it shows you how well you’ve done. But we can still defend better and cut out some of the chances we are giving teams.”

It was a squad with a couple of new faces in that turned up in Kent as Pearce and coach Robbie Blake juggle their troops.

Left-back Archie Edwards has left Bognor by mutual consent – the former Charlton defender was unable to travel to West Sussex for regular training and is now set to join a club nearer London.

Also moving on is Harvey Sparks – the left-sided attacker, who joined after his releease by Worthing in the summer, wants regular football and is set to have more chance of that at Horsham.

Sussex sides discover FA Cup fate
Two in two out at Nyewood Lane
Rocks have their Whits about them
Coming into the squad are 18-year-old left-back Joe Tomlinson, on loan from the Brighton academy, and a 19-year-old attacking midfielder who can also play wide – Charlie Osborne, a local lad who had three years on Pompey’s books and has played for Basingstoke Town.

Pearce said: “We wish Archie and Harvey well. It made sense for both to move on and we are pleased to bring in Joe and Charlie.

“The difficult thing at our level is with the lads who are not in the first XI regularly and keeping them happy. It’s a juggling act.”

Before the next round of the FA Cup the Rocks have Bostik premier and Velocity Trophy action ahead of them.

They take their unbeaten league record to tenth-placed Carshalton’s artificial pitch on Saturday, then host Whitehawk on Tuesday in a league cup first-round tie. If they beat Whitehawk they will visit Herne Bay or Hythe Utd in round two.

Pearce said the Whitehawk game would probably be a chance to give starts to a couple of players who had not been featuring regularly.