BOGNOR welcome Pompey to town on Friday night with manager Jamie Howell telling his players: Let’s make sure we give them a test.
Nyewood Lane’s biggest crowd of the season is likely for the now-annual friendly between the Rocks and the Blues.
Last year it finished 6-1 to Pompey and one hope Howell has is that his troops make Paul Cook’s men fight harder this time.
The game comes with Howell content with how his squad are shaping up for the new Ryman premier campaign. They drew 2-2 with Conference South side Gosport on Monday.
The Rocks (who can be seen on the video, above, in pre-season fitness training) have lost last year’s fans’ player of the season Dan Sackman to Petersfield and still do not know how will be their first-choice keeper, but have defender Sami El-Abd, midfielder Dan Beck and striker Jason Prior all training well in addition to the bulk of last season’s squad.
Howell said: “We’re looking forward to play Pompey – massively so. They’ve been fantastic to us in coming every year for a friendly and allowing us to borrow young players.
“It’s normally a good game although I think we were a little disappointed to lose it 6-1 last season.
“I’d like us to really try to compete with them and at least stay in the game. I’m not saying we’re going to beat them – they’re a very good side – but we want to test them.
“We want the fans to enjoy it and we want Pompey’s management to see that Bognor is a good place to send some of their players.”
Gates will open at 5.30pm with kick-off at 7.30 and live music in Seasons after the game. Admission is just £10 for adults – that’s a third cheaper than Pompey fans were forced to cough up to see their team’s first friendly, at Havant last Saturday, where Pompey drew 1-1 in their first friendly.
Bognor fans are likely to see Blues academy keeper Alex Bass between the sticks again for their team. He faced Gosport and the Rocks are still weighing up options for who will take over from Chris Winterton as their first-choice stopper this term.
But much of the Rocks line-up is likely to be the one that starts the league campaign in just under a month, with Craig Robson and Sami El-Abd the first-choice defensive duo, something that has convinced the popular Sackman to go to Southern League outfit Petersfield in search of regular first-team football.
Howell said: “Dan came to me and said he had the chance to go, and with us having signed Sami to partner Robbo in defence he wondered if he should. I was honest with him and said that although I didn’t want him to leave, I couldn’t guarantee him regular starts. I’ve told him if it doesn’t work out, he’s welcome to return.”
The Rocks, who also play away to Moneyfields next Wednesday, will have a look at a Havant defender in tomorrow’s game while a crop of up-and-coming teenagers – such as Lloyd Rowlatt, Jordan Warren, Miles Rutherford, Tom Atkinson and George Cody – could also feature again.
Howell has been pleased to see Beck – back at the Lane after a spell out of the game that followed two successful spells with the Rocks – in good shape.
“Fitness-wise, he’s brilliant - way ahead of where I thought he’d be. He’s an excellent option to have in the squad and in the changing room.
“Jason Prior’s back and looking sharp, too. We’re in the position of being able to fine-tune rather than be starting from a blank canvas, which is a nice position to be in at this stage.
“We’ve got Harvey Whyte working his way back to full fitness and would envisage him being fit for the start of the season, although James Crane has tweaked a knee and could miss a couple of weeks.”
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