Rocks v Leyton Orient: Views from both camps

It's potentially Bognor's game of the season - a glamourous-looking FA Trophy second-round tie at home to National League premier side Leyton Orient.

Friday, 12th January 2018, 8:00 am
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 3:25 am
The Rocks celebrate a goal at Grimsby in their 2016 Trophy semi-final second leg / Picture by Tim Hale

As the Rocks prepare to go into battle with the side who, until relegation last spring, were firm fixtures in the Football League, we see how look at the tie from both camps’ angles.

George Sessions, who covers Leyton Orient for Archant London, and Bognor Observer sports editor Steve Bone assess how each side will view and tackle the match.

Leyton Orient head to Bognor looking to take another step towards an appearance at Wembley, writes George Sessions.

Os head coach Justin Edinburgh outlined his ambitions in the FA Trophy before the club’s first-round tie at Haringey Borough on December 16.

Orient had to come from behind to progress 2-1 at Coles Park thanks to goals from Josh Coulson and Matt Harrold and now visit Nyewood Lane.

Bognor may be struggling in the league, but Edinburgh will pay them plenty of respect.

“It will be a team I feel is capable of winning the game,” said the 48-year-old, when asked about his potential starting XI on Saturday.

“Everyone knows I am taking the FA Trophy seriously and when I came to the club I played a full team against Haringey Borough.

“It will be the same at Bognor, so they will get the respect they deserve because it is a competition I believe we can win.”

The Rocks have found victories hard to find this season, achieving just three in the division – hence why they are 21st and six points from safety.

The FA Trophy has been a nice distraction for Jack Pearce’s team, though, and they have seen off Taunton Town and Hemel Hempstead Town to reach this stage.

But if Bognor are to go further in the competition, they will have to beat Os on the day with both clubs deciding to settle the tie on Saturday with extra-time and penalties if required and no replay.

Edinburgh said: “I’m happy to go there and try to win the game, whether that be in 90 minutes or on penalties.

“It was my decision along with Bognor’s and I was happy to do that because I don’t think it is necessary to have another fixture.”

Orient will head to West Sussex without a win in three games, but in decent form overall having suffered just one defeat from their past seven.

The goalless draw at home to Boreham Wood last weekend was their second consecutive stalemate after holding Dagenham & Redbridge to a 0-0 on January 1.

A 1-0 loss to Bromley at Brisbane Road occurred two days earlier, but on the whole it was an excellent display having played 86 minutes with ten men after Bondz N’Gala saw red.

Edinburgh will have to make do without Dan Holman on Saturday after he played for Boreham Wood in the competition in December, but fellow new loan signing Lamar Reynolds may start.

“We will go there and believe we can win the match,” said Orient’s head coach. “In the previous two games before Saturday, we should have scored more goals. Against Boreham Wood our chances were limited, but when we get to a point where we are not creating then it will be a concern.”

* When Leyton Orient head to Bognor on Saturday, they’ll be visiting a club who have had a season of struggle in the league but one who have found the FA Trophy a nice diversion, writes Steve Bone.

The Rocks were promoted via the Isthmian League play-offs to the National League South for this season and despite losing manager Jamie Howell to Eastbourne Borough two days after that success, they had a great start to the season in the league.

With veteran Jack Pearce back as manager after a drawn-out search for Howell’s successor ended with no obvious replacement being found, Bognor won two and drew two of their first four games, scoring 14 goals in the process. Then, their progress ground to a shuddering halt.

Since then they’ve not won in the league at home and have enjoyed just one away league victory, at St Albans, form which has left them second from bottom in the National South and facing a huge battle to avoid an immediate return to the Isthmian premier.

Their two main problems have been injuries and a lack of goals. A season-long search for a natural goalscorer continues and although Ibra Sekajja and Jimmy Muitt have both weighed in with a few, too often games have been summed up by plenty of possession, plenty of chances, but no-one to get on the end of them.

Out injured long-term have been defenders James Crane and Corey Heath and striker Ollie Pearce. The latter is expected back from groin trouble soon but Crane and Heath, and now another defender, Chad Field, could all miss the rest of the season.

The Rocks have also been without Keaton Wood, a former England C captain who has boosted the defence since his arrival from Dartford.

As if the injured list were not long enough, the next three games will see forward Ben Swallow – scorer of two goals in the last round’s 4-1 victory at Taunton Town – suspended after a contentious red card in a league defeat to Havant and Waterlooville on January 1.

Bognor have battled well to reach this stage of the trophy – holding NLS rivals Hemel Hempstead to a 1-1 draw in the third qualifying round in November before winning 1-0 in a tight replay at Nyewood Lane. Sekajja was on target in both games.

Taunton were disposed of in the last round and suddenly the Rocks are wondering if they might go as far in the Trophy - or even one better - than in the 2015-16 season.

Then, as an Isthmian premier side, they famously beat five sides from the National League’s premier and southern divisions to reach the semi-finals.

After seeing off Bath City, Maidstone, Altrincham, Sutton and Torquay, the Rocks were drawn to face Grimsby Town in the two-legged semi-final.

The Mariners won 1-0 at Bognor in the first leg but the second game was delicately poised at 1-1 – 2-1 on aggregate – until Grimsby scored again later to dash the Rocks’ Wembley dreams.

Bognor will be hoping for a crowd of anything up to 2,000 on Saturday and will be dreaming of another upset. For one day, they can be forgiven about putting their league struggles to one side.

In their line-up, expect to see the likes of keepr Dan Lincoln, who has attracted interest from Football League sides, former Portsmouth academy defender Calvin Davies, big centre-half Sami El-Abd, midfield workhorse Doug Tuck and right-sided utility man Harvey Whyte.

The Rocks have alternated between wing backs and a midfield diamond of late, the former system hit recently by a struggle to find three fit central defenders.