Can FA Trophy triumph lift Rocks for vital league clashes?
The Rocks reckon their latest brush with glory in the FA Trophy could rescue their season by inspiring them to greater things in the league.
They are through to the last 32 for the second time in three years – and only the third time in their history – and have been handed a plum tie at home to Leyton Orient in the next round.
The 4-1 first-round win at Taunton which set up the glamour clash was their third win in seven games and gives them confidence for some crucial National League South games ahead. It was the first time since August 15 they’d scored more than three in a game.
Jack Pearce and Darin Killpartrick’s men host fellow strugglers Poole Town on Saturday then make the short trip to big rivals Havant on Boxing Day.
The bosses said there was a buzz around Nyewood Lane after the win in Somerset and the pairing with Leyton Orient, who were in the Football League until relegation to the National Premier last spring.
The tie, on January 13, will be settled on the day after both clubs agreed not to go to a replay. Leyton Orient, now managed by Justin Edinburgh, sit just one place and three points above the relegation zone.
Also pleasing for the management and fans was seeing the goals shared around at Taunton – Ibra Sekajja netted again but Ben Swallow scored his first two for the club and Doug Tuck weighed with a late strike.
Pearce said: “It’s been an excellent week for the club – a good result against a team who are going very well in their league, then a good draw against a big club.
“The first half at Taunton was similar to many of our games in that we had lots of possession but couldn’t find the final ball. But in the second, the final pass was there and the quality of our finishing was very good.
“Winning a game gives people a lift. The cups have helped us this year. We’ve also beaten Hemel Hempstead and Eastbourne, both from our league, in cup competitions this year and now we need to start turning that into league wins.
“The Leyton Orient game should be a great occasion. It’s a winnable game. Like us, Orient are having a tough season. But i’m sure they’ll improve under Justin Edinburgh.”
Coach Killpartrick was particularly pleased to see Swallow and Tuck ease the goal burden that Sekajja has been carrying for the past couple of months.
“I’ve said all along we need the whole team to weigh in with goals, and it’s great to see that happening. Ben’s first two goals for us will give him the confidence to get mor. Now we need others to start scoring too,” he said.
“The Trophy run has been good for us. I was very calm on the sidelines at Taunton even when we were 1-0 down. I could see where they could be exploited and we ended up comfortable winners. I knew we’d end the game fitter.
“Poole is a big game although we only get three points if we win it, not six or ten. We’ll be ready for it and for Havant on Boxing Day.”
Only defenders James Crane and Corey Heath and striker Ollie Pearce remain sidelined through injury, with cente-half Keaton Wood set to return this weekend after sitting out the Taunton game with a broken nose.
Crane (shoulder) and Heath (ankle) are likely to be out for several more weeks but Pearce (groin) could be back in a fortnight.
Pearce said he’d love to see a big crowd at the Lane on Saturday although he appreciated it was very close to Christmas. Decent numbers are expected to head to Havant on Tuesday – while the return game against Lee Bradbury’s high-flyers is at Nyewood Lane on New Year’s Day.
Get first news of the Poole and Havant games on this website