WORTHING Football Club joint manager Gary Elphick is delighted to have competition for places all over the pitch as the new season gets underway on Saturday.
Rebels travel to Corinthian Casuals for their opening Ryman League South Division game but will be without three defenders, with captain Steve Metcalf, Harvey Sparks and Will Hendon all missing.
Metcalf misses the opening game through injury after a clash of heads in Worthing’s 7-2 friendly win at Arundel on Saturday, which resulted in the game being held up for an hour in the first half, and just two 35-minute halves being played.
Sparks is unavailable and Hendon serves a one-game suspension on Saturday.
However, Elphick believes his squad have enough cover to cope with the absentees and feels that the players who start the game can stake their claim for a regular starting spot.
He said: “It’s awful timing with Steve as he’s been fantastic for us in pre-season and I’ve said all along that he’s going to be a big player for us this season.
“He’ll be a big miss but, hopefully, he’ll just miss the one game as he seems all right now after he had a bit of concussion following a clash of heads.
“It was terrible to see and an ambulance was called as he was knocked unconscious and we did ask about calling the game off.
“In the end, we played another half hour after the delay and came through it without any injuries, got another victory and scored a few goals, so we’ll go into the start of the season with confidence.
“We’ve got a few defenders missing on Saturday but this is why we’ve brought the players in who we have and have used our budget effectively.
“Jaz Rance or Matt Axell will be left-back and whoever plays a blinder on Saturday will keep their shirt and the players coming back will have a fight to get back into the side.”
Elphick hopes to have striker Ben Pope available and said: “I’ve asked Bournemouth to let us know about Ben this week but I think he’ll be with us on Saturday, if he recovers from turning his ankle while he was with Bournemouth.
“He just wants to come back and score goals for us and I’m sure that Bournemouth will keep tabs on him and other clubs will show an interest as well.
“The more games and goals that we can get from Ben, the more it will help us as he’s a great player.”
Rebels are also hoping to tie up a season-long loan deal with Ebbsfleet for their academy striker Casey Johnson.
Elphick expects every game to be tough this season but said: “We’ve just got to concentrate on ourselves.
“We’ve got a way that we want to play and, if we do it to the best of our ability, then we’ll be a force.
“We have a young-ish side but we go into the season with plenty of confidence and I’m sure that we can have a positive season.”
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