Can Rocks take flying form from home on the road?
The Rocks have passed their home test with flying colours '“ now they're being challenged to maintain their title push on the road.
Two more Nyewood Lane victories in the space of four days – 4-0 over Canvey Island and 1-0 against Leiston – have left Bognor four points clear at the top of the Ryman premier with just five games to play.
Now things get even tougher – with Saturday bringing a trip to Enfield, who always have a strong end to the season and who are on the fringes of the race to get into the play-offs.
Manager Jamie Howell is remaining level-headed and says his players are too.
It looks like a straight fight between Bognor and Havant for the title and the sole automatic promotion spot, with second place guaranteeing only that a team will be home in a play-off semi-final – and the final if they reach it.
Howell was delighted with a fairly-comfortable win over Canvey – who’d won their previous five –and a hard-working win against Leiston, whose only failures to win in their past six have been in their two tussles with the Rocks.
James Fraser’s hat-trick and a Jimmy Muitt strike crushed Canvey on Saturday while a superb goal by Jimmy Wild left Leiston pointless on Tuesday night. More than 1,200 fans in total watched the back-to-back wins.
Howell said: “It’s been a pleasing few days. Both opponents came here in good form and we have come out on top in two very different games.
“Against Canvey the wind made it very difficult and we managed to get 2-0 up playing against the wind in the first half. We scored at useful time,” he said.
“Against Leiston I thought our first-half performance was as good as we have been for some time –we were excellent. But it was a worry that we didn’t get a second goal.
“In the second half we got deeper and deeper and Leiston deserve credit for the way they pushed us back. But we are actually quite good at defending in those sort of situations. It’s something we work hard on.
“That was a massive win but it doesn’t change anything in itself. We’ve got ourselves in a very good position but all we can do is keep trying to play well and get results and see where we end up.
“I’m not someone who says I never look at league tables. I wouldn’t be a very good manager if I didn’t look! But there are five games to go for us, five for Havant, more for some of the teams, and you just can’t predict what will happen.”
Coach Darin Killpartrick said: “I thought the first half against Leiston was one of the best halves I’ve seen from us in two or three years – it was that good. We moved the ball, did the simple things, got the ball into advanced areas and created genuine chances.
“Leiston made us work hard in the second hafl but we’ve told the lads to get used to that. Every game is a cup final now and the pressure is going to keep going up.”
It’s been very much a team effort for the Rocks but hat-trick hero Fraser and the muck-and-bullets defending of Gary Charman have been picked out for praise by fans in recent days.
Fraser has scored 20 league goals from midfield so far and Howell said: “It was maybe a bit of a gamble when we brought him back. He’d not scored so many goals at Burgess Hill or Lewes but some players suit certain clubs and I think that’s the case with James and us.”
Charman, complete with head bandage after a nasty clash of heads on Saturday, was outstanding on Tuesday night. Howell said: “That was typical Gary. He actually wanted to come back on Saturday after what was quite a nasty cut.
“He’s been superb for us and is just the sort of player you need in a battle.”
Defender Chad Field has finished his three-match ban and is available at Enfield, while midfielder and skipper Dan Beck was having a scan yesterday to try to diagnose his hip problem.
A couple of players picked up knocks in the Leiston game and will be assessed at training.
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