Rocks sign striker at last... under-19 international joins from Brighton

The Rocks will welcome Stefan Ljubicic on Saturday / Picture by Tommy McMillan
The Rocks will welcome Stefan Ljubicic on Saturday / Picture by Tommy McMillan

Bognor have finally signed a striker they can hope can solve their goal shortage in time to save their season.

They have recruited 18-year-old Icelandic forward Stefan Ljubicic on loan until the end of the season from Brighton and Hove Albion’s academy.

The 6ft 4in striker, who has played for Iceland’s under-19s, is likely to go straight into the starting line-up for Saturday’s National League South home game with Truro.

Fans will hope he is finally the answer to a season-long problem afflicting the club – the hunt for someone who can turn possession and chances into goals.

Although Ibra Sekajja and Jimmy Muitt have battled away up front in recent months, it’s widely acknowledged that the Bognor squad are short of a hitman and regular scorer who can start helping them get the results their football often deserves.

A couple of other strikers tried earlier in the season, Chinedu McKenzie and Ferdinand Takyi, proved not to be the answer, while Jimmy Wild moved on and Ollie Pearce has been out injured for almost half the campaign with a groin injury.

We’ve been talking to Millwall, Colchester, Boreham Wood, all sort of clubs, but it’s been very difficult.

Jack Pearce

Rocks boss Jack Pearce said: “We hope this new signing will work out well for us.

“We must have been through 15 or 20 possibilities in terms of getting a new striker in. Most of them don’t want to come and play for us.

“We’ve been talking to Millwall, Colchester, Boreham Wood, all sort of clubs, but it’s been very difficult.”

Rocks secretary Simon Cook said: “Stefan has already played 14 times for Iceland’s under-18 and under-19 teams, scoring seven goals. He is 6ft 4in tall and so is just what the club have been seeking for so long.”

It’s the Rocks’ second signing in a week. Also coming into contention for the Truro game is winger Anthony Nelson, 20, from the Cayman Islands. He has been training with the squad and he now has international clearance. Nelson was brought up in the UK but moved to the USA several years ago. He has been playing for Valparaiso University in the top division of the US Colleges League.

Before moving to the US, Nelson attended the prestigious Shrewsbury School and attracted the attention of Shrewsbury FC. He was called up to play for the Cayman Islands in the Under-20 World Cup qualifying matches in 2017.

Cook added: “With Ugandan international Ibra Sekajja, Cayman Island under-21 international Anthony Nelson, Richard Gilot from France and of course Egyptian Sami El-Abd, Stefan joins a multi-national squad - who may even be boosted by an Australian who is currently trialling with the team!”

Pearce said the club now had a squad of 22, but five of those were injured and not likely to be available for a couple of weeks – much longer in some cases. “Those 22 all need paying and it’s a big squad,” he said.

Meanwhile Manny Adebowale’s loan from Dover has been extended until April, which is welcome news following El-Abd’s current injury.

Cook added: “We are extremely grateful to both Brighton and Dover and look forward to welcoming Stefan on Saturday.”

Bognor nabbed a point at Hungerford on Saturday thanks to Muitt’s goal. They are five points off safety near the bottom of National League South.