Defensive doubts and injury worries are casting a shadow over the Rocks’ terrific start to life in the National League South.
Amid the euphoria over four goal feasts which have put them in the top five, the management are concerned they are letting in goals too easily.
And no fewer than FIVE players have picked up injuries that threaten to stretch the squad less than a month into the long season.
Bognor drew 3-3 at Welling on Saturday and followed that by beating Whitehawk 6-2 at a disbelieving Nyewood Lane on Tuesday night, that after being 2-1 down.
Manager Jack Pearce and coach Darin Killpartrick are delighted at the goals they’re scoring – 14 in four so far – but have warned the players they will be punished by the division’s stronger teams if they keep conceding two or more per game.
Weston-super-Mare visit the Lane on Saturday fresh from their first win, a 2-1 victory over Gloucester on Tuesday night, and the Rocks can expect extra defensive drills at training tonight.
Pearce said: “In football scoring goals is always the hardest bit and defending should be the easiest and at the moment we’re having to score three goals every game to win. And when you play good sides, you will not always score three goals to win the game.
“The pleasing thing is that our goals have come from us putting into practice the things we’ve spoken to them about. That’s encouraging.
“The disappointment is the goals we’ve conceded. A lot of them are coming from what I consider to be basic principles of defending and allowing people to have shots.
“We’ve conceded nine goals – at least two in every game. So although you can look at the old adage of ‘We’ve scored more than them’ I have to be honest and say we can’t keep going like that.
“We have to work harder at our defending. We are more of a team who are going to go forward and be attacking but we have to be more aware of balancing it with our defending principles.
“Ollie Pearce was man of the match and that’s great but when he comes into our half, he’s more effective for the opposition! He causes us as many problems in our half with his defending as he does them when he’s in their half!
“It’s the whole team who need to defend and we’ve got to work on that. When we put this team together, we knew we had to realise we would concede a few goals.
“It’s a good start over the four games but I’m concerned about the number of injuries.
“Dan Beck is injured, Jimmy Muitt has done his ankle, Corey Heath also has an ankle problem. Harvey Whyte’s got a bit of an ankle issue and Doug Tuck’s calf is tight.
“That’s five players and when you’ve only got 18 in the squad, that’s a problem. We’ll have to assess them all and take it from there.”
Killpartrick said: “We were watching a game of basketball instead of football. It was very open and it’s something we need to address. We’ll look at the videos and see why we’re conceding goals.
“I don’t blame individuals – I’m looking at the team conceding goals. At this level you get punished by quality strikes. Every time they went forward I thought ‘We’ve got to defend for our lives here’.
“We were easy winners only because of the sending-off. We got a lucky goal. But if it wasn’t for the sending-off there’s no way that would be an easy game.
“We’ve worked really hard on scoring goals in pre-season but maybe I should have worked a little bit more on (what we do when we are) out of possession. I need to address that with Sami and Jack. We can’t conceded this number of goals at this level.
“But it’s three points and that’s what we’re aiming for. As for the table, I’ll tell you when we’ll decide if we’re in a nice position – in April. Until that time we’ll keep on working hard, working hard on the training pitch, keep the spirit of the team, maybe add one or two and keep going week by week.
“We’re looking for additions – without a doubt – but they have to have the right character to play here, not just technicially but as part of our social corner, part of our group of lads. So it’s important that if we do bring anyone else, it’s got to be the right player.
“We’ve got Weston-super-Mare at home next and I’d take a clean sheet and three points. They won on Tuesday night and it will be another tough game. They’ll be right at it.”
Killpartrick praised the Rocks fans who are flocking to Nyewood Lane - the total attendance for the two games so far has been 1,470.
“More than 700 on a Tuesday night - unbelievable. Thank-you very much to those fans. Sometimes you take it granted and it’s not til you walk around the pitch at the end that you realise how many people are in the ground as you’re so focused on the game. I can’t thank the fans enough.”
* Jack Pearce was asked about the surprise departure of Gary Charman to Eastbourne Borough - weeks after the stalwart defender was handed a role assisting the management.
Charman was told he was unlikely to get much first-team action, something that was important to him.
Pearce said: “I can’t speak highly enough of what Gary has done for the club. My managerial experience has told me that sometimes you’re worng but that you have to make a decision about things.
“The way I saw it, we had four good centre-halves and not many teams at this level will keep four centre-halves of that quality.
“Gary wants to play on a regular basis and I had to be honest with him. A lot of managers would have put it off and then it would have come to a head in two or three weeks.
“I looked at the high standard of the players, the age of the players, I looked at the injury situation of the players. I didn’t want two centre-halves as subs. Gary can play in other positions but I could only see him not getting many minutes if I was manager.
“I told him that and said the decision was his. He decided Eastbourne was a better standard than Worthing (out of clubs he could possibly have gone to) and we agreed for him to go and get some games at Eastbourne, and we’ll review the situation in a month’s time. It will depend on injuries to us and everything else.
“But at the moment I see Chad Field and Corey Heath, at their age, as the long-term future of our club, and that’s all I’ve ever looked at.
“I’ve managed for a long time and it never gets any easier. The hardest part of being a manager is making decisions you realise will not be popular with everybody because, in this case, he’s a very good player who’s done very well. There’s no animosity and I can only thank him.”
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