It's tough at the top - but Rocks are happy to be there
Still top - and still dreaming. But another week as the Ryman League's No1 does not change a thing as the Rocks vow to keep totting up the points that could end in promotion.
A visit to third-placed Needham Market yielded one more point from a 2-2 draw, but Havant’s four points from two games means they are now just one behind Jamie Howell’s side at the summit.
Bognor have been in top spot far longer than many thought would be possible and Howell insists they are not going to start looking beyond the next game.
That sees 21st-placed Leatherhead visit Nyewood Lane this Saturday, though any notion it will be a comfortable outing for the Rocks is blown away by the fact two of the other sides in the bottom four, Hendon and Grays, have won at Bognor in the past three months.
The Rocks – who amazingly had more than 100 supporters with them on the long trip to Needham Market in Suffolk – hope a bumper crowd will get behind them in each of their remaining home matches, ones which Howell offer an opportunity for the team to play their brand of attacking football and score goals.
Howell was pleased with the display at Needham, though slightly disappointing they had twice been able to hold on to a lead for any significant amount of time.
“We let in two sloppy goals, each one coming soon after scoring ourselves, and that was uncharacteristic,” said the boss.
“But overall it was pleasing to go away to the side in third place and on a difficult pitch take a point.
“I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t look at the league table but I’m not letting it dominate our thoughts. We need to look after ourselves and keep trying to win games and amass points.
“The first task is to secure a play-off spot, then see what we can achieve after that.”
With Havant now the Rocks’ clear main rivals for the title – and Lee Bradbury’s side are many people’s favourites to win it – the Easter Monday clash between the teams at West Leigh Park looks massive. But Howell pointed out there were 27 points to play before then.
“Saturday’s a big game and it will be nice to get back to our own pitch. Leatherhead will make it hard for us – they have had some good results and their league position doesn’t really count for anything – but it’s at home where we need to be playing good football, creating chances and scoring goals.”
Howell had praise for utility man Gary Charman, who he said was man of the match at Needham after being called into the team in place of captain Dan Beck, who was ruled out by illness.
Beck is set to be fit this weekend and Howell admitted Charman could be left out, but said the veteran would have a vital role to play in the squad over the rest of the campaign.
“There are certain games that suit certain players and the Needham game suited Gary. He was in his element, diving around and winning headers,” said Howell.
Winger Alex Parsons has recovered from a nasty cut on his foot and could face Leatherhead, while left-sided Brighton youngster Dylan Barnett my now be available to Bognor for the remaining 11 games.
Howell is weighing up whether to allow midfielder Lorenzo Dolcetti or striker Jimmy Wild to be with Chichester City again this weekend and says he is also weighing up on a game-by-game basis which two from three –Charlie Moone, Ollie Pearce and Jimmy Muitt – to field up front.
Moone has yet to score following his arrival last month but Howell said: “He just needs one goal to get him going. It’s nice to have a choice of strikers.”
The Rocks have no plans to add any more new faces to the squad but that could change if any injuries strike between now and the transfer deadline at the end of March.
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