Rocks’ resolution is clear for New Year

Chad Field and Jason Prior challenge for the ball at Westleigh Park / Picture by Tommy McMillan
Chad Field and Jason Prior challenge for the ball at Westleigh Park / Picture by Tommy McMillan

The Rocks have been set a clear New Year’s resolution: Turn your improved form into home victories.

It’s the factor that manager Jack Pearce believes can save them from relegation and lift them up the National League South table.

Another chance of three points at Nyewood Lane came and went on Saturday when only a stoppage-time Doug Tuck goal rescued a point against fellow strugglers Poole Town.

It’s in contrast to Bognor’s fine away form, which saw them take a well-deserved point from a wet and windy derby at Havant on Boxing Day.

The home return against Lee Bradbury’s title chasers is next up for Bognor on New Year’s Day – the perfect time for them to show they can turn it on in front of their own fans too.

At home the Rocks have won just twice, both successes coming as long ago as August. They’ve taken four points from nine home games since beating Bath City and Whitehawk.

Away, although they have won only once, they have eeked out six draws.

The management believe if they can continue their gritty away displays and start to win at home, they will avoid an immediate drop back to the Isthmian League.

Speaking after a battling performance at Westleigh Park, Pearce said: “Whenever you go away from home in this league and come back with a point, you’ve done well – especially when you’re second from bottom and the other team are second from top.

“I thought we gave a good account of ourselves. If we’d lost it would have been an injustice. I don’t think Havant can say we were lucky.

“Ibra (Sekajja) had the best chance in the first half of the game and he also had a chance in the second half which was delfected over.

“We know our faults but the boys worked very hard in conditions that were difficult for both teams and I’m delighted.

“Saturday’s draw with Poole was disappointing.

“At home we’ve had six games where we have taken six points out of a possible 18, where if we had taken 14, none of our opponents could have complained.

“The number of teams we’ve played at home where we’ve been better than them but have lost by the odd goal or have drawn is very frustrating. Because our away record is good. We’ve drawn at Chelmsford, Bath and now Havant, we won at St Albans, we’ve done well.

“So it’s our home form that’s the worry. We have to play the higher-placed teams at home now, and that might help us, you never know.

“I watch us play and we don’t look like a team who are second from bottom. But we’ve been down there for a big chunk of the season and we’ve got to try to change that. At least we’re still in touch with the sides just above us.”

Coach Darin Killpartrick said: “It was a good point at Havant. We showed character and spirit and proved we can play in atrocious conditions againt physical teams. We were up against an in-form team and dealt with them.

“We look forward to welcoming them to Bognor on monday. I’m sure it will be another close encounter.”

With striker Ollie Pearce (groin) and defenders Corey Heath (ankle) and James Crane (shoulder) still sidelined, Bognor are now sweating on whether centre-half Keaton Wood will be fit for the Havant rematch.

He limped off in the first half at Westleigh Park – his third injury in his six weeks at the club.

Pearce said: “Poor old Keaton. He’s played seven games for us and he’s broken his nose, dislocated his elbow and now he’s done his ankle. We don’t know how bad that is yet. He’s due to have an x-ray to see how bad it is. We wouldn’t want to lose him for long – that would be four key players on the sidelines, which hurts you.”

Killpartrick was delighted to see midfielder Tuck on the scoresheet against Poole with his second goal in two games.

“I’ve been challenging him to get into areas where he can have a goal. I want him to do that more and I want others to chip in with goals too. We need them from everyone.”

Get the first report from the Rocks v Havant on New Year’s Day on this website