Rocks out for Trophy upset against Leyton Orient
The Rocks are confident they can put their stuttering league form to one side and give Leyton Orient a run for their money in Nyewood Lane's big FA Trophy tie on Saturday.
The Londoners, who were in the Football League until the end of last season, will be strong favourites to win the last-32 tie, but the Rocks hope to summon up the spirit of their 2015-16 run to the semi-finals, in which they beat five teams from the National League’s premier and south divisions.
Bognor go into the game having won only one league game since August and reflecting on another case of points dropped last Saturday, when they should have been out of sight of hosts Whitehawk but ended up drawing 2-2.
Coach Darin Killpartrick said they’d need to be at their best when the Os, managed by former Spurs defender Justin Edinburgh, visit.
“We trained hard on Tuesday night and will plan for the game, in a way, like we would for any other game. But we know Leyton Orient were a Football League team until last year and will present us with a huge challenge.
“We will have to be at our very best from start to finish if we’re to get anything from the tie, but it will be a day and an occasion when the pressures of the league are off and when hopefully everyone can enjoy a great spectacle.”
Orient boss Edinburgh has indicated he is taking the FA Trophy seriously and wants to win not only the Bognor tie but the competition itself.
They have struggled to adapt to lift in the National premier but have picked up recently, with three wins and a draw in their past six league matches.
The game comes as Bognor continue to strengthen the squad with an eye on the battle to avoid relegation from National League South.
A host of injuries, mostly to defenders, has sparked the signing on loan from Dover of big centre-half Manny Adebowale, while the club have gained international clearance to sign 21-year-old French midfielder Richard Gilot, who started out with Le Havre then transferred to US Quevilly-Rouen, who play in the second tier in France.
The hunt for goals continues too and the Rocks have been considering a move for AFC Totton striker Craig Feeney, although the 25-year-old is reported to be happy to stay with the Evostik South division-one team.
Injury-wise, with full-back James Crane (shoulder) and centre-half Corey Heath (ankle) awaiting surgery and likely to be out for the season, two other central defenders are still not ready to return.
Chad Field is likely to be out for another month with a knee injury and Keaton Wood is about ten days away from fitness with an ankle problem.
Gary Charman, who has returned to the Lane from Eastbourne Borough and came on as a late sub at Whitehawk, is eligible to play in the Trophy tie and the Rocks are talking to Dover to try to get Adebowale available for the game.
Killpartrick said: “The injury situation is unbelievable. Every week seems to bring a new problem and we could do without it.”
The team are six points off safety near the bottom of National South but Killpartrick was encourage by the performance at Whitehawk, where they trailed 1-0 to a soft penalty then led 2-1 after a Jimmy Muitt double before conceding again.
The coach said: “We were the better team and created many chances. I’ve watched the video back and their penalty was one of the softest I’ve seen for a few years. We played some good football on a difficult pitch and just have to keep working hard to get results.”
A large crowd is expected on Saturday with hopes it could attract up to 2,000 and fans are urged to get there early.