BOGNOR’S under-18s lost their big county cup final to Burgess Hill Town through a Dan Perry goal 14 minutes from time.
It was far from straightforward for the Hillians as the Pebbles put in a great performance and on another day could have won.
Bognor manager Dan Cox said: “I’m absolutely gutted for the lads that we didn’t win - we played so well, especially in the first half and should have come in with a half-time lead.
“It was an extremely tough game, which we knew it would be. Burgess Hill are a excellent side, and have a physical edge over most teams as well as being quick and powerful going forward.
“When we played them in October, they were miles ahead of us - since then, our boys have improved week by week.
“The way the first half was going we would were disappointed going in 0-0, and in the second half we started to tire a bit in the last 20 minutes while still being on top of the game. Their goalkeeper Josh Green was man of the match, so that says it all really”.
Perry could have put the Hillians ahead five minutes into the match, but he was unable to make contact with Harrison Cheesman’s low cross from the left.
Green made his first save of note after 13 minutes as Ryan Morey crossed to Joe Grommett and his first-time drive was turned over the bar by the diving keeper.
The Rocks almost went into the interval ahead as left-back Nathan Hawker’s cross-come-shot from 40 yards caught Green off guard, but the keeper did brilliantly to back track and tip the ball over the bar.
A vocal crowd of 352 witnessed Perry miss a chance to break the deadlock after the break. Perry went close again just after the hour when he skipped past Ryan Barratt, but one-on-one with Luke Terry he saw his effort deflected wide by the legs of the keeper.
Bognor were unfazed by the fact the Hillians sit top of the Ryman South Youth League with just one defeat all season and nearly took the lead in style as Ben Mendoza lined up a free-kick 25 yards out. It curled the ball around the wall and beyond Green’s reach, but brushed the outside of the post on its way into the side netting.
Green was again at his best to deny Dale Hayes as the right-back pounced on to a loose ball - his powerful effort turned over the bar.
Burgess Hill got what proved the only goal with 76 minutes gone. Nathan Cole combined well with Lloyd Durrant on the right before Cole sent in a great cross which picked out Perry at the near post. The forward steered it beyond the diving Terry to find the far corner from six yards.
Joe Grommett almost headed the Rocks level, but his effort from Johan van Driel’s free kick went wide in the last minute.
After the game the players and management went over to the travelling Rocks fans to thank them for their support.
PEBBLES: Terry, Hayes, Barratt, Miles, Hawker, Ansa, Edwards (Ashmore 55), Morey (Mepham 80), Van Driel, Mendoza (Connolly 89), Grommett. Subs not used: Rafferty, Coyle.