Rocks Review: Cray 1 Rocks 3

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The Rocks moved up to fourth place in the Ryman premier after a hard-working and well-earned victory away to Cray topped off by a goal from the returning Harvey Whyte.

The winger’s signing from Havant gave everyone at the club a lift after a run of three defeats in four games and he played a pivotal role in this latest success on the road, which sets up a fourth-v-fifth tussle at home to Canvey Island on Saturday.

On a freezing night at Hayes Lane and in front of a sparse crowd, this was no classic - but it was a hard-fought win for the Rocks and ultimately pretty comfortable.

Louis John slotted in at right-back in place of Jon Marzetti, who failed a late fitness test, while there was a first start in several weeks for Ben Andrews, and Whyte was straight into the side after signing the previous day from Havant.

There was a frenetic start and John surged forward in the second minute and perhaps should have rounded off his run with a goal - before Cray went up the other end and threatened through Bremner, who was to prove a handful for the visiting defence all night.

From the game’s first corner on five minutes, Chris Saunders rattled the Rocks’ bar before Stuart Axten cleared.

Then Dan Beck had a shot cleared by Billy Burgess after Lewis Stockford - having one of his best games for the Rocks - set him up.

It was an open game and it was no surprise when Ashley-Paul Robinson’s bullet header fom six yards opened the scoring on 13 minutes after John and Stockford had combined well on the right.

Cray hit straight back and Craig Stoner, back in the side after a knee injury kept him out of the defeat at Wealdstone, saved well from Bremner - but that was a warning shot as, in the 18th minute, they were level.

The Rocks felt it was ball-to-hand when Andrews was penalised for handball in the box but the spot-kick was given and Bremner converted it.

Bremner went close to giving Cray the lead with an 18-yarder that skimmed the bar and Andrews stopped another Bremner attempt on the line.

Whyte beat four players on a mesmerising run from inside his own half before seeing his shot strike the inside of the post and running along the goal-line.

That near miss was forgotten on 43 minutes, though, when Robinson’s shot from the edge of the box led to a scramble which saw Stockford and Whyte try their luck before Crane finally beat the home keeper to give the Rocks an interval lead.

The second half was less frantic and the Rocks looked in reasonalbe control for the most part, although the ever-present Bremner found space to go close with a 20-yard effort that struck the bar.

Stockford looked odds-on to make it 3-1 but perhaps should have set up Robinson instead of shooting, then John had a goal ruled out for offside and a nice move involving Jordan Clarke and Whyte ended with Crane shooting narrowly wide.

Eighteen minutes from time, though, the Rocks did get a third as Robinson’s pass played in Whyte, who outpaced the defence and slid the ball home.

There were no real scares for the Rocks after that and as the temperature dropped further, both sides were probably pleased to hear the final whistle.

The other good news of the day for the Rocks was that winger Ben Johnson had his cruciate ligament operation and reports from the hospital said it went very well.

Rocks: Stoner, John, Crane, Stockford (Tuck), Axten, Andrews (Kempson), Beck, Wills, Robinson, Whyte, Clarke. Subs unused: Wollers, Boyle.

by SIMON COOK & STEVE BONE

Get all the latest from Nyewood Lane in the Bognor Observer - out on Thursday