Harvey Whyte could be out for two months - or even longer - after suffering a serious knee injury in Bognor’s friendly win at Pagham.
The utility man’s injury cannot be accurately assessed until swelling goes down but the Rocks fear it is medial ligament damage, which could mean six to eight weeks out.
The hope is that it is not cruciate ligament damage, which would take around six months to get over.
Whyte was hurt by what most felt was a hard but fair challenge at Pagham - but the game was a bad-tempered one when plenty of challenges went beyond what you’d expect in a pre-season game.
Rocks manager Jamie Howell said: “It’s so unfortunate for Harvey, who is a key player for us. It was an accident - their lad didn’t mean to hurt him. We just hope he won’t be out for too long.”
Howell added: “There were a couple of tackles that were slightly disappointing but we have a good relationship with their manager Mark Bennett and want that to continue. Things calmed down, and we move on from it.”
The good news for the Rocks from Friday night’s game was a 4-0 win and a decent team performance.
James Fraser, Ollie Pearce, Jimmy Wild and trialist winger Walter Figueira were on target as Bognor comfortably got the better of their Southern Combination premier-division hosts.
Howell was pleased to see the goals shared around - and especially delighted to see Pearce and Wild link up well and both score.
Unless another striker is brought in before Saturday week, when the Rocks kick off a new Ryman premier campaign at home to Lowestoft, Pearce and Wild are likely to be their front two.
A third striker in the squad, ex-Brighton youngster Jimmy Muitt, has started kicking a ball in training and should soon be pushing for a starting spot.
Howell said: “Jimmy is working very hard in training and he and Ollie are striking up a good partnership, though it’s early days.”
The pair are set for another game alongside each other in attack when Bognor play their final friendly this evening at Horsham.
The Rocks are set to begin the season with promising Brighton duo Dylan Barnett and Jason Davis in the squad.
Left-back Barnett and right winger Davis impressed the management and fans when they made their Rocks debuts in the 4-1 Nyewood Lane defeat to Pompey last Wednesday and are set to join on loan.
Howell said: “We’re very grateful to Brighton for allowing them to come to us. They need minutes on the pitch and will get them with us.”
The arrangement will be for an initial month, and could be extended.
Howell said the Davis deal meant they would not be taking on Figueira at present, although would keep tabs on him after his lively outing at Pagham.
Defender Chad Field is having a trial with Dundee this week but a return to Bognor remains an option for him, while full-back Calvin Davies may yet be one of the young players Pompey loan the Rocks from their academy.
Ed Sanders is another central defender in line for a chance - he has been ever-present at training.
Howell still hopes to do a deal to recruit goalkeeper Billy Grainger, although it was ex-Franborough stopper Aaron Bufton between the sticks at Pagham.
Howell said he was still looking for reinforcements but said: “I’m fairly happy. We have the nucleus of a good side.”
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