CANVEY Island’s “Mr Reliable” is targeting 15 clean sheets in a bid to push the Gulls to a play-off finish.
Rob Bartley has been a regular at the club since signing from Southern League side Chesham United last summer, making 47 appearances last season, and has looked impressive at the start of this campaign alongside former Canvey favourite John Easterford.
And he believes this year’s squad is capable of challenging the top five, although admits he will do his utmost to avoid repeat performances of games such as Tuesday’s 4-4 draw with Met Police.
“It was unexpected,” said Bartley, 25. “At 4-1 our heads were down, but Marlon (Agyakwa) changed the game for us (scoring two goals before Jay Curran’s last minute equaliser). When that second goal went in we thought there might be enough time to get something.
“We were 3-0 down against Lewes last year and came back to get a point so we knew we had it in us. We have more experience than years past and greater quality.
“We lost Gamo (Matt Game) but we have Dobbo (Kevin Dobinson), now so we have that physicality in midfield.”
Bartley also praised the Canvey Island defence, although the Gulls have only kept one clean sheet so far this season, last Saturday at Peacehaven & Telscombe.
“I think we have looked good in defence, apart from against Met Police. We have experience at the back and it’s easy to play with people like that.
“I want at least 15 clean sheets this season. If we can exceed that we will be around the play-offs at the end of the year. We will score goals so it is up to us at the back.”
Canvey beat this Bank Holiday weekend’s opposition last year, chalking up wins at home against Enfield Town and away at Bury Town, and Bartley is targeting two wins again this time around.
“We need to be looking at six points,” he said. “We can get three points at home against Enfield and we won at Bury last year so we are confident of securing those points.”
The centre-back also spoke in support of striker John Sands. The usually prolific Sands has netted only once this season, having found the back of the net more than a dozen times last term.
“Sands will get his goals. Curran is getting them at the moment (five goals in four games), but we all know Sands’ quality and his contribution is still so important to the team. He will play against a former side in Bury on Monday so he will want to do well there. Two or three goals and he will be back in business.”