The Rocks have hailed the ‘Brighton factor’ for helping kick-start their season - and they are hoping it extends to help them get the better of Worthing in next week’s big Nyewood Lane derby.
Bognor have taken three young prospects on loan from the Seagulls and two of them - Thomas Byrne and Dylan Barnett - scored to give them their first win of the season, a 2-0 home success over Staines on Tuesday night.
It lifted them into the top half of the Ryman premier table and put them in good spirits for Saturday’s trip to Billericay and Monday’s first ‘big game’ of the season, the 3pm clash with newly-promoted neighbours Worthing.
Byrne is only 17 but has come from nowhere into the Rocks starting line-up. He set up James Fraser’s goal in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Grays and scored the opener versus Staines minutes after seeing a penalty saved.
Howell revealed Adam Hinshelwood, who works with the youngsters at Brighton, had helped them secure the services of Byrne.
“Adam said he had been doing well in the youth team and felt he could do a job for us. Adam knows how we play and knows the Ryman League - and so far Thomas has done really well. He gives us another option up front,” Howell said.
After starting the season with only two strikers - Ollie Pearce and Jimmy Wild - the Rocks now have for. As well as Byrne being added to the mix, Jimmy Muitt is now pushing for a place after coming off the bench for his Rocks bow in Tuesday’s win.
Central defender Sami El Abd is also back in the side after injury. He came on as a sub at Grays, although did immediately give away a penalty, and was man of the match as the team kept their first clean sheet against Staines.
Howell feels the team have improved game on game so far although was a little disappointed not to come home from Grays with a win.
“We could have taken all three points at Grays although possibly didn’t do enough to earn that,” he said.
“But it was excellent to get the first win on Tuesday. We needed it. Our first home game wasn’t great so it was good to see a significant improvement in our second.
“Winning is a habit and breeds confidence, especially in a side so many young players have come into.
“We were one up for a long time against Staines and I had visions of us not finishing them off. Staines had chances and Gary Charman cleared two off the line but we got the second at the very end.”
Howell praised Charman’s reaction to being left out of Tuesday’s starting XI. El Abd replaced him but Howell said: “He didn’t sulk, when he could have done. He’s played well but was left out, but he was professional and did well again when he came on for Chad Field.”
Field has pulled a hamstring and joins utility man Harvey Whyte on the sidelines, but should miss only a couple of weeks.
Howell said Billericay would provide a stiff test with their direct football on Saturday and revealed the whole club was eagerly anticipating Monday afternoon’s derby with Worthing, the rivals’ first league meeting since 2012.
“Worthing have had an excellent start to the season and seem to have momentum after last season’s promotion,” he said.
“I’m pleased we’re playing them. It’s good for the area to have both clubs in the same league. It will be competitive but I’m sure it will be played in the right spirit and the fans will enjoy it.”
It will see a return to Nyewood for former Rocks favourite Kane Wills, who has made a fine start to his Woodside Road career.
Howell said: “I think he’ll get a good reception. He was brilliant for us and I think we were good for him.”
Get the first reports from the Billericay and Worthing games at www.bognor.co.uk
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