Covo set for new season and a test of his squad

John Coventry.

SURVIVAL is key for East Thurrock United manager John Coventry as he looks to again confound the pundits by successfully steering the Rocks through their second season in Vanarama National League South.
The Rookery Hill-based team finished comfortably in mid-table at the highest level the club has ever achieved last time out with an equal number of wins, draws and defeats to clinch 13th place.
But Coventry admits that possibly wasn’t a true reflection of the club’s status but is keen to upset the odds again.
“We’re looking to build on that. We probably over-achieved to finish higher than people might have expected but I’ll be happy to over-achieve again!”
So does Coventry think the Rocks’ success was down to being novices and no-one knowing what to expect from them or were they genuine contenders at that level?
“At one stage, yes, it was the latter but once we started doing well other clubs came knocking and we lost key players,” he replied.“But we came back from that and made sure we were safe. This league is all about consistency of toughness; there are no games you can mark off as easy.”
The new campaign kicks-off on Saturday (5 August) at home to Hampton & Richmond Borough and Coventry has got all the pieces of his jigsaw in place for the season opener, though he might not be able to utilise them all.
“Unfortunately holidays and a couple of niggling injuries mean we may be missing a couple but we have got a squad of 17 now and we will see how we go.
“That’s a very small squad compared to some other clubs but we have to live within our means,” said Coventry, who brought in the final two players this week with the signings of good friends Montel Agyemang and Femi Akinwande to bolster his attacking options.
Akinwande was a hit with Rocks fans during a brief loan spell at the end of last season and has returned, while Agyemang, who paired up with Akinwande at?Colchester after making his Football?League debut for Leyton Orient in December 2014.
New to a Rocks shirt are defender?George Allen and midfielder James?White from?Canvey Island and Concord Rangers respectively and both have come through a pre-season programme that has seen Rocks win four out of six matches and score 17 goals.
But Coventry says he has already consigned those results to the history books and says they will mean little at 3pm on Saturday.
“We’ve got minutes under people’s belts on the pitch and we have seen some things gel well – and others not so well and have had to work on them – but it’s a completely different ball game when the league starts.
“I think this is the best squad we have had in all the years I have been here but you never really know until you play league games.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how the new players fit into an East Thurrock shirt when it gets tough. With those we’ve kept, it will bring very interesting times for the club.”
Likely to be a lynchpin signing for the opening pair of matches at home to?Hampton and away to?Whitehawk on Tuesday is Max Cornhill who has found the net regularly from midfield, while Lewis Smith’s return to action after a spell out of the game because of betting irregularities brings another attacking option.
“We’ve got good players, there’s no doubt about that,” said Coventry.
“Have we got a team? We will soon know!”