JASON PRIOR netted another hat-trick as Bognor comfortably overcame bottom side Lewes to get their Ryman premier promotion bid back on track.
Two goals inside the first 16 minutes gave the Rooks an uphill task and it was beyond them as Prior finished them off with a third early in the second half. Sub Ollie Pearce rubbed salt into the Lewes wounds with the fourth in injury time.
The win moved Bognor back up to eighth place in the table and right in among the clubs chasing the title and play-off places - although five of the teams above them also won. Nevertheless the three points and the performance meant they ended their 2015 schedule on a high.
As for Lewes, they face a long second half of the campaign battling to stay in the premier division - and they will have to improve on this showing if they are to give themselves any chance of that.
The Rocks welcomed their Sussex rivals to town needing a win - they had lost four and drawn one of their past five league games, in contrast to their fine FA Trophy form which had seen them beat Bath City and Maidstone in the same period.
Lewes - who had no fewer than seven ex-Rocks in their 16-man squad - were also in need of points, coming into the fixture adrift in bottom place.
Afterwards Bognor manager Jamie Howell praised his team for a professional display, while Lewes boss Darren Freeman said the Rocks were the best side his players had faced all season.
A minute’s silence was held before kick-off for three Rocks fans who have died recently as well as former club manager Ernie Randall.
Bognor were soon on to the attack and Chike Kandi put Lewes under pressure inside the first minute with a run down the left before Wollers lost possession as he tried to work an opening.
Five minutes in, Prior’s perfectly-weighted pass found Alex Parsons in the box and he took one touch then rattled the angle of bar and post with a shot.
The win moved Bognor back up to eighth place in the table and right in among the clubs chasing the title and play-off places.
The crossbar was struck for the second time as Prior just failed to keep a header down when he stretched to meet Stuart Green’s cross to the far post. But it was a bright start from the Rocks.
It was no surprise when Prior headed the Rocks into the lead on 12 minutes, being left free to run and meet Dan Beck’s right-sided corner with a free header that slipped past the keeper and a man on the line.
And it was 2-0 on 16 minutes when Prior was fouled just a few inches outside the box - with Lewes not convinced he had been wronged - and lashed the free-kick past the wall and helpess ex-Rocks keeper Chris Winterton.
When Lewes did get forward, another ex-Bognor player James Fraser looked to be making progress but was well-tackled by Chad Field, and hurt his leg in the process, coming off for treatment.
Trevor McCreadie wanted a penalty for Lewes when he went down in the box under a Field challenge on 21 minutes but the ref was having none of it. Then Bognor broke and Kandi worked himself clear on the keeper, who saved with his legs.
Alex Parsons was at the centre of all Bognor’s best work and another cross on 25 minutes might have found any one of three Rocks attackers in the centre, but the offside flag went up.
Fraser could not run off his injury and was replaced by Charlie Coppola.
Prior had thoughts of a 20-minute hat-trick when the ball fell to him centrally 20 yards out but this time he was well off-target.
The intensity of the opening stages didn’t last but even when the game was being played at a slower pace, the Rocks looked largely in control.
On 37 minutes Green burst clear in the area and forced Winterton into a good low save. Winterton then made a brilliant save to keep out a third Rocks goal when Kandi almost deflected in Parsons’ cross.
Lewes came as close as they had all half in the 41st minute when Coppola flashed a cross-shot just wide.
As they had in the first half, the Rocks attacked from the start of the second. Parsons curled a ball into Kandi just outside the area and his trickery gave Prior half a chance but he was crowded out.
James Crane was booked on the main stand touchline for a foul as the game began to get a little ragged. Then Kandi was close with a low 20-yard shot that was deflected for a corner. Prior met it with a free header - as he had for the opening goal - but this time he didn’t meet it right and it flew well wide.
Prior was so close to completing his hat-trick on 55 minutes when he hooked Green’s cross towards goal but it was hooked off the line by another of Lewes’ ex-Bognor crew, Alex Mallins.
Sure enough he did complete his treble on 61 minutes, sidefooting into bottom corner from 12 yards after a nice run down the right and pulled-back cross by Parsons.
Today’s treble took Prior’s tally to an amazing 131 Rocks goals in 179 starts and seven appearances off the bench - better than two goals in every three.
Parsons almost went from provider to scorer with a drive that Winterton did well to turn around for a corner.
The first Rocks change of the afternoon came on 64 minutes, Pearce replacing Green, and Parsons and Pearce combined down the right to cause brief panic in the Rooks defence on 67 minutes.
Lewes replaced Phil Appiah with another of the ex-Bognor seven, Lee Carey.
Beck became the second Rocks player to see a yellow card - it looked a harsh decision for a shoulder-to-shoulder challenge as Lewes attacked down the left. The free-kick came to nothing.
Alfie Rutherford replaced the excellent Parsons with 18 minutes left.
Pearce ran through on goal with only Winterton to beat but was thwarted by a well-timed tackle. Then Kandi ran at the defence and forced Winteron into a sharp save at his near post.
Lewes brought on George Landais for Alex Laing before Lloyd Cotton was booked for a foul on Kandi as the last ten minutes began. Then a Pearce cross from the right just evaded Prior yards from goal.
Pearce made it four in the 90th minute, sliding in to net from close range as Prior got the ball across the six-yard box from wide on the left.
Grant Smith earned his first mention in this report when he made a superb double save in injury time when first Coppola looked certain to score in a scramble in the box and then Lewes couldn’t get the rebound past the keeper - a good effort from the stopper when he’d had very little to do.
Rocks: Smith, Crane, Wollers, Tuck, Field, Robson, Parsons, Beck, Prior, Kandi, Green. Subs: Rutherford, Pearce, Whyte, El-Abd, Boughton.
Lewes: Winterton, Brinkhurst, Redwood, Appiah, Freeman, Mallins, Muggeridge, Cotton, McCreadie, Fraser, Laing. Subs: Landais, Benel-Mhanni, Breach, Carey, Coppola.
Ref: William Bull (Winchester)
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