Bognor boss: Loss of another centre-half is a big blow

Jack Pearce says the loss of defender Joe Cook is a huge blow to Bognor’s promotion ambitions.
Bognor took on Worthing without Joe Cook - and struggled at the back / Picture by Tommy McMillanBognor took on Worthing without Joe Cook - and struggled at the back / Picture by Tommy McMillan
Bognor took on Worthing without Joe Cook - and struggled at the back / Picture by Tommy McMillan

The centre-half had been rock-solid since joining Bognor on loan from Havant and Waterlooville three months ago.

His spell in the team has coincided with a big improvement in results, but he has now been recalled to West Leigh Park as Hawks boss Paul Doswell shakes up his defensive options after a couple of injuries and shaky performances.

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It leaves Bognor trying to cover Cook’s absence from within the squad or by recruiting another centre-half. His absence was certainly felt in the New Year's Day 3-0 loss to Worthing.

It is another defensive blow for a club who have lost centre-half after centre-half to injury, unavailability or moves to other clubs in the past couple of years.

The Rocks have another big home game to come this Saturday when Margate visit and they'll have to defend better than they did against Worthing.

The turn of the year brings a league table that shows the Rocks well-placed to mount a promotion bid in the second half of the season.

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Manager Pearce says Cook’s recall by Havant has not helped that ambition but the management and players will be going out all out to take their fine form of the past three months into this key period in the campaign.

“We’ve had a good run over October, November and December, although it was frustrating to lose three successive games to the wet weather to end the year.

“You can train all you like but it doesn’t keep you quite as sharp as playing matches, and having beaten Cray 7-2 last time we did play, we wanted to play again the next day, let alone the next week.

“But provided the weather improves we will have no shortage of games coming up to try to keep our form going.”

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Cook’s departure could see Keaton Wood and Joe Dandy paired up in a back four, the two both having played centrally with Wood in a back three. But Dandy has had a trial with National League Aldershot and there is no guarantee he will be with the Rocks long-term.

Against Worthing the Rocks began with Dandy, Wood and James Crane in a back three but switched to a back four after being run ragged for the first half hour. Pompey academy defender Harry Kavanagh is another option at the back but is only 17. He made a promising debut at right-back on New Year's Day.

The squad has been further hit by new signing Ross Edwards’ decision to take a break from football. They have also had to contend with injuries to Brad Lethbridge, Mason Walsh and Ben Mendoza although striker Lethbridge and winger Walsh both came off the bench to feature against Worthing.

Pearce said: “I’ve always said that with a normal number of injuries we can flirt with the play-offs; if we’re really lucky with injuries we can be top six.

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“On our day we’re as good as anyone in the league but we do need a bit of the rub of the green with our best players staying available.”

Bognor’s Velocity Trophy trip to Folkestone has been rearranged for Tuesday, January 14 but there is no new date yet for the trip to Lewes.