Future of two Pompey starlets is so crucial to Bognor

Bognor are hopeful Pompey striker Brad Lethbridge will remain with them for the rest of the season '“ but fear fellow forward Dan Smith will move to a National League club.

Scorer Mason Walsh on his way to goal for the Rocks against Carshalton / Picture by Tommy McMillan
Scorer Mason Walsh on his way to goal for the Rocks against Carshalton / Picture by Tommy McMillan

And manager Jack Pearce has warned the club’s resources are stretched to the limit – to the extent that more results like the 3-0 defeat at Brightlingsea Regent on Tuesday are inevitable.

Lethbridge and Smith were prevented by Pompey from playing for the Rocks against Carshalton last Saturday and at Brightlingsea on Tuesday as they were needed for the Blues’ Checkatrade Trophy tie at Southend, where Pompey won 2-0 with both starting.

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Before that game, Pompey boss Kenny Jackett said while he was grateful to Bognor for the part they had played in the duo’s development, he felt Smith was ready for a move to National League football.

The Rocks have now been told Lethbridge can play for them at Burgess Hill on Saturday, when Pompey will let them use one other player as well.

That may be Smith, or could be one of two they were loaned earlier in the season: midfielder Freddie Read or wide man Leon Maloney.

The longer-term arrange-ment remains up in the air.

The two Blues strikers’ absence – plus injuries to defenders Keaton Wood, Calvin Davies and now Gary Charman – left Bognor down to the bare bones for the trip to Essex. Youngster Joshua McCormick was drafted into the defence and Chi City striker Kaleem Haitham playing up front, while there were only three on the bench.

In the circumstances a 3-0 defeat to a side in the bottom half of the table was perhaps no surprise.

Blake warns Rocks after defeat in EssexSenior Cup hopes ended by Burgess HillPearce said the current situation was a ‘nightmare’ and might not improve in the near future.

His phone is red-hot as he rings around to try to bring in reinforcements, but he warned that the playing budget would only stretch so far when injured players still had to be paid.

Central defender Corey Heath came off the bench in the win over Carshalton and the loss at Brightlingsea but looks some way short of full fitness.

Centre-half Charman has a groin problem which ruled him out on Tuesday, though he may be fit for the trip to his former side Burgess Hill on Saturday.

Pearce said the fate of Lethbridge and Smith was key and he was at least pleased Lethbridge plus one other Pompey man would be Bognor’s at Burgess Hill.

The first Pearce knew that Pompey thought Smith could benefit from moving to the National League was when it was reported on this website on Tuesday.

Pearce said: “Both have been great for us when available but when you take them out of our squad, along with the quality of player we have injured, it makes a hell of a difference.

“Our three points against Carshalton was probably our best of the season because we were down to the bare bones then too. But you won’t keep getting results when you’re so depleted.”

Saturday’s hosts Burgess Hill lost 8-0 in the first league meeting between the sides in October but have strengthened under new boss Simon Wormull.

Pearce said: “They will be a very different proposition now. They are well-organised and it will be very difficult.

“We will have to see week to week who is available and I can assure supporters we are making every effort to improve the squad.”