Rocks Review: Hope on Harper and Bond - but will Robinson move on?

Steve Harper may stay with the Rocks after all  Picture by Tommy McMillan
Steve Harper may stay with the Rocks after all Picture by Tommy McMillan

The Rocks hope striker Steve Harper may still be with them next season after all – but remain less certain of Ashley Robinson’s future.

Harper was a big hit after arriving on loan from Met Police midway through last season, scoring nine goals in 14 starts and ten appearances off the bench.

He played a vital role as the Rocks won promotion via the Ryman one south play-offs but told fans at the end of the season the travelling to training and matches from his home in Tonbridge, Kent, was proving a strain.

But Rocks joint boss Jamie Howell said the club were prepared to make allowances for the distance he had to travel if it meant him being part of the squad for the new season.

Howell said: “I hope he will come back to us and I think he may. We can make some allowances, I would think.

“His location is the only factor. If he lived around the corner from Nyewood Lane, he’d be signing tomorrow.”

The Rocks could end up short of strikers if Harper decided against returning.

Although Terry Dodd is contracted to the club for another year, their third forward, Robinson, is keeping his options open.

The former Crystal Palace youngster, like Harper, proved an excellent mid-season signing and weighed in with 13 goals in just 18 starts plus two games as sub – including a hat-trick and a shootout strike in the memorable play-off semi-final win on penalties over Godalming.

Robinson is believed to have a couple of trials lined up with clubs higher up the football pyramid - but the door to a Nyewood Lane return could remain ajar if these didn’t come to anything.

Another key man the Rocks hope to see in pre-season is centre-half Tim Bond, who is continuing to recover from a long-term groin problem.

Bond last played for the Rocks at the end of October before a series of injuries ruled him out.

Howell said: “Tim’s still trying to find exactly what the problem is with his hernia. He’s going to see a muscular specialist.

“We hope that in pre-season he’ll be able to do a little bit with us but he won’t be ready for the start of the season.

“He’s able to do bits of work here and there at the moment – nothing too strenuous.”

Most of last season’s squad have already committed to the cause for the new campaign – the latest being centre-half and play-off final goal hero Stuart Axten.

Antonio Gonnella, who the Rocks released at the end of the season, has joined Ryman one south outfit Faversham.

Howell is calm about the need for new faces and doesn’t expect to sign anyone before pre-season begins on Friday, June 29.

“It’s a case of seeing who becomes available,” Howell said.

“It’s no good chasing after players we know we can’t afford or who won’t want to come here because of the geography. We’ll be patient and make our moves when the time’s right.”

Howell wants a squad of 12 to 13 experienced players fleashed out with promising, hungry local young players.

The Rocks’ under-18s supplied a number of players for the first-team squad earlier on last season and aim to do so again - especially now ex-Pagham man Dan Cox has joined the coaching team.

The first team’s opening friendly is at Selsey on Monday, July 16.