ROCKS REVIEW: Bid begins to keep squad together

Darin Killpartrick and Jamie Howell have vowed to do everything possible to keep the Rocks squad together for another promotion bid.

The joint bosses fear the club will have to fend off approaches for at least one or two of the team who went so close to a return to the Ryman premier division at the first attempt.

But in the wake of them missing out on the division one south title by one goal then losing in the play-offs, Killpartrick is confident the management will start the new season with a familiar-looking team.

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Top scorer Jason Prior is attracting interest, while others who may be coveted by sides higher up the chain include winger Ben Johnson, midfielders James Fraser and Kane Wills and defender Stuart Axten.

But Killpartrick said work was about to begin to tie players to the Rocks.

The squad haven’t got together since their play-off defeat to Dulwich Hamlet – who lost 4-3 to Leatherhead in Saturday’s final – but they will gather for the supporters’ club’s end-of-season presenations tomorrow night.

Killpartrick said: “We’re working on tying in three or four of the players but we haven’t quite started that yet. We wanted to give the lads a break.

“We would like continuity at the club. That’s what you need to build things gradually.

“We want to keep this squad together because they’ve been fantastic and they understand what we’re trying to achieve.

“We may have to deal with a few approaches. There’s a food chain in football and keeping players when others want them can be difficult.”

Howell said: “I’ve spoken to most of the players and the general view is they want to stay. They like the club. If we lose one or two, we lose one or two – we will have to cope with that. But I wouldn’t expect a lot of changes.”

Killpartrick and Howell are both still finding the nature of the team’s promotion miss a bitter pill to swallow.

Howell said: “Without wanting to be over-dramatic, I think that day at Chatham will haunt me forever. But when I hear the odd comment asking if we really had a winning mentality, I think that’s rubbish.”

Killpartrick is advocating tinkering with the play-offs to weight them more in favour of the side finishing second in the league. The Rocks finished second but were beaten in a one-off game by a side who finished fifth – 31 points behind them.

Killpartrick said: “I’ve had five years of trying to survive relegation, being relegated and now going so close to achieving our dream.

“But we have to move on and start rebuilding. You can’t change what’s happened but I don’t want to experience that feeling again.”