JAMIE HOWELL is delighted Rocks fans are turning up to home matches expecting them to win – but has warned his players not to take bottom club Bury Town for granted.
The Suffolk strugglers – five points adrift at the foot of the Ryman premier – are the next visitors to Nyewood Lane this Saturday as Bognor look to continue a superb run which has seen them win seven and draw one of their last eight home league games, scoring 22 goals along the way.
It’s a complete turnaround from the start of the season, when the Rocks were badly short of good performances, goals and results in front of their own supporters.
The latest home-turf triumph came on New Year’s Day, when goals from Ollie Pearce, James Crane and Stuart Green saw the Rocks come from a goal down to beat Peacehaven & Telsocmbe 3-1 – some revenge, perhaps, for the 3-0 defeat suffered against the Magpies in last May’s Sussex Senior Cup final at Brighton’s Amex Stadium.
Bognor’a away struggles continued on Wednesday night when goals by Jason Prior, Jake Thomson and Alex Parsons couldn’t prevent a 4-3 defeat at Leatherhead - and that makes a continuation of the home form all the more important.
Howell said: “I was delighted with the win and I’m pleased at the way the home form is continuing. Had we had a settled team at the start of the season, we’d have won more games then as well.
“We have a good pitch which suits our play and we’re now playing with confidence and scoring goals.
“We started really well against Peacehaven, then they scored. I was thinking “Not another Amex”. But we kept plugging away and the goals came.
“It’s important we continue to get results at home. I want fans to be turning up and expecting us to win and I’m sure many will this Saturday, although football’s not like that. Bury have had some good results on the road and it will be a hard game.”
Howell, speaking before last night’s visit to Leatherhead, acknowledged that away results needed to improve but pledged not to change the team’s ‘positive’ approach to games on the road.
He also spoke of his deep gratitude to Pompey and their manager Andy Awford for getting them out of a defensive crisis.
The Blues have sent tall 18-year-old centre-half Chad Field to Bognor to cover the two-game absence of Craig Robson, and last night, at short notice, they allowed the Rocks to borrow highly-rated left-back and academy-team captain Brandon Haunstrup, also 18, after sickness ruled James Crane out of the Leatherhead game.
Howell said he hoped other Pompey academy loans might be possible where needed in the future.
He said: “I must pay tribute to Andy for the way he has helped us. If we hadn’t been able to borrow Chad and Brandon, we’d have been going into a game with only two recognised defenders.
“Not all pro clubs will want to loan out their young players but Pompey have been top-class. We have an excellent relationship with them and even though they have plenty on their own plate, they are always to quick to remember us and help us out.”
Jason Prior was set to play the final game of his current loan spell last night ahead of a return to Margate. Howell said he still held out hope Prior might be back at the Lane in the future.
The management are now mulling over whether to borrow another striker to replace Prior, which would prevent them having to move players like Green and Alex Parsons around in an attacking formation that has served them well of late.
Get first news of Bognor v Bury Town on this website on Saturday