What can Leyton Orient expect at Bognor Regis Town this weekend in the second round of the FA Trophy?
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Chichester Observer sports editor Steve Bone provides the lowdown on O’s FA Trophy opponents ahead of Saturday’s big match at Nyewood Lane
When Leyton Orient head to Bognor Regis Town 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.
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 made a great start to their league campaign.
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 City, form which has left them second from bottom and facing a huge battle to avoid an immediate return to the Isthmian Premier.
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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.
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The Rocks have also been without Keaton Wood, a former England C captain who has boosted the defence since his arrival from Dartford, but he may be fit to face Leyton Orient.
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 teams from the National League’s premier and southern divisions to reach the semi-finals.
After seeing off Bath City, Maidstone United, Altrincham, Sutton United and Torquay United, 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, with Orient’s Craig Clay starting for the visitors, 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 for putting their league struggles to one side.
In their line-up, expect to see the likes of goalkeeper Dan Lincoln, who has attracted interest from Football League sides, ex-Portsmouth academy defender Calvin Davies, big centre-half Sami El-Abd, midfield workhorse Doug Tuck and right-sided utility man Harvey Whyte.
Wood’s return could enable them to play a wing-back system although they have alternated between that and a midfield diamond of late.