ROCKS REVIEW: Strike pair can keep us in league's gang of four
Jason Prior and Luke Nightingale have been backed to ensure the Rocks are part of their division's breakaway gang of four who are heading for the play-offs and the chance of promotion.
Jason Prior and Luke Nightingale have been backed to ensure the Rocks are part of their division’s breakaway gang of four who are heading for the play-offs and the chance of promotion.
The strike partners are in superb form, with another five goals between them in three festive-period games which saw the Rocks move to within five points of top spot in Ryman one south.
And the seven points have seen Darin Killpartrick and Jamie Howell’s team become part of a top four who are threatening to pull away from their rivals and finish the season in those positions with a bit to spare.
The Rocks, in fourth spot, are eight points clear of fifth and sixth-placed Sittingbourne and Burgess Hill, who have both played two games more than the men from Nyewood Lane.
This Saturday is a big weekend in the promotion race - the Rocks travel to face second-placed Whitehawk, who are five points ahead of them, while leaders Met Police host third-placed Leatherhead.
The Rocks have still to play Leatherhead and the Met Police home and away.
Two home wins in three days against top-half sides Burgess Hill and Walton Casuals netted six points for the Rocks, for whom Prior and Nightingale remain in electric form.
Prior’s two headers sealed the Walton win while Nightingale has scored in five of his past six outings.
Killpartrick and Howell are delighted and see no reason why the goals can’t keep flowing.
Prior now has 18 goals for the season, Nightingale 13.
Killpartrick said: “The way we’re playing suits both of them and we’re making a lot of chances at the moment, a good proportion of which they’re taking.”
Howell added: “We’ve seen the goals shared around quite well this season but Jason and Luke’s form and goals have been huge for us.
“Luke has been on fire for a few games now. You can see how much he enjoys playing for Bognor. Our style suits him and his style suits us.”
The management are still refusing to get carried away about talk of a play-off spot - and there were even some light-hearted comments in the boardroom after Monday’s win that with 40 points on the board, relegation fears had been banished.
Killpartrick accepted the visit to Whitehawk, doing so well in their first season in the Ryman after promotion from the Sussex League, was a massive game.
But he said: “We’ll approach it the same as we approach every game and we’ll try to play the way we always try.
“We’re delighted with how the season has gone so far but we’ll continue to take it a game at a time. Jamie and I won’t get carried away - nor will the players.”
Nightingale gave fans a scare when he failed to appear for the second half against Walton on Monday, but Killpartrick said that was down to a slight hamstring strain that should not keep him out at Whitehawk.
Defender Stuart Axten is on the road to recovery after ankle ligament damage and is being lined up to make his comeback in next Wednesday’s Sussex Senior Cup visit to Lewes. Pompey loan defender Perry Ryan will continue to deputise on Saturday.
Wingers Phil Turner and Dan Royce are the others on the treatment table. Turner felt a hamstring twinge when he made his comeback against Burgess Hill while Royce has a trapped nerve in his back.
Matt Whitehead has been struggling with a thigh strain but should also be in contention for the weekend.
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