Rocks Review: The kids are all right

Carl Walshe heads in the Rocks' second at Carshalton  Picture by Tommy McMillan
Carl Walshe heads in the Rocks' second at Carshalton Picture by Tommy McMillan

The Rocks’ youngsters won praise for a hearty display that got the team back to winning ways - and were told: We need you to keep rising to the challenge.

Tuesday night’s line-up at Carshalton contained fewer than half the club’s first-choice XI, but that didn’t stop the Rocks marching to a fully-deserved 2-0 victory that lifted them back up to seventh in the Ryman premier table.

It was a great effort from a team without injured sextet Ashley Robinson, Steve Harper, Ben Johnson, Terry Dodd, Daryl Wollers and Stuart Axten and missing skipper Ben Andrews through work commitments.

Manager Jamie Howell said the whole team deserved great credit - and challenged the youngsters, who have found themselves thrown in at the deep end much sooner than they might have expected, to go on proving they can step into the senior players’ boots.

The starting XI at Carshalton included teenagers Louis John, Dan Kempson, Doug Tuck, Harvey Whyte and Carl Walshe, plus dual-registered Dan Sackman, recruited from Moneyfields, who had hardly met any of his team-mates before arriving for the game.

In addition, young stand-in keeper Tom Boyle has proved an able deputy for Craig Stoner in recent games, while the likes of youth-team pair Dan Simmonds and Ben Chick have done well coming off the bench.

There are at least signs the injury crisis is easing.

Forwards Robinson and Harper are both being assessed at training tonight after recovering from knee and hamstring injuries.

Saturday’s trip to Canvey Island will probably come too soon for both but they may feature in Tuesday’s League Cup trip to Burgess Hill or next Saturday’s league game at home to Enfield.

Defenders Axten and Wollers face longer out - Axten is a good five weeks away with knee ligament damage while Wollers is seeing a specialist over a groin problem.

Dodd is about three weeks from fitness as he gets over a broken metatarsal, but Andrews comes back into the side at Canvey in place of Sackman.

Howell said: “It’s come to the point where I’ve stopped taking calls from our physio! We’ve had a bad run but the positive to come out of it has been the performances of the players who have come into the team.

“They’re all young players who are featuring for the first team more often and sooner than they or anyone else envisaged.

“They’re understanding how we want them to play although they’re not the finished article yet. As a team we haven’t got the fluency we had when we had the same line-up for two years, but we’re going in the right direction.”

Darin Killpartrick has won praise for the work he has done on the training pitch to get a new generation of Rocks players playing ‘the Bognor way’ - no mean feat when you have new faces coming into the squad all the time.

Howell said: “Not one of them has let us down and undoubtedly they will keep on getting chances in the first team - not just now but later in the season. There are a lot of games and we don’t have a big squad.”

Many will play in Tuesday’s Burgess Hill cup clash as the club take the chance to rest some of the senior players who have been playing week in week out.

Howell said no-one was getting carried away by one win - any more than they wouldfeel down about Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat to Wealdstone, when a decent performance lacked only a killer instinct in front of goal.

Skipper for the day Kane Wills’ late red card for pushing away a time-wasting opponent - which most in the ground thought should have been a yellow card - will see him miss home league games against Enfield and Harrow and the FA Trophy home tie with Bridgwater.