BOGNOR have made a disappointing early exit from the FA Trophy – but history almost repeated itself as they chased an equaliser when 2-1 down in injury time in their replay at AFC Sudbury.
In their first qualifying round tie between the sides at Nyewood Lane on Saturday, Ollie Pearce secured a replay with a 91st-minute equaliser. And in the replay in deepest, chilly Suffolk, his stoppage-time volley almost forced extra-time.
In truth Sudbury probably deserved the win, having had the better chances for much of the game, while Bognor are left to reflect on their failure to give home keeper Marcus Garnham too much to do despite having plenty of possession.
There was lots of early presurre from the Ryman one north hosts and Chris Winterton was called into action numerous times, notably on 15 minutes when he saved instinctively from Sam Clarke. He followed that with stops from Ollie Berquez and Chris Newby, while Criag Poke struck the crossbar.
Bognor were doing their share of attacking but without creating clear-cut chances or front two Pearce and Ashley-Paul Robinson.
On 28 minutes Poke surged forward to beat Winteron and give Sudbury the lead – and Scott Kemp might have made it 2-0 soon after, but for another Winterton save.
Bognor’s best chance of the first half came just before the break when James Crane had a shot headed off the line by Lee Flynn.
Three minutes into the second half, Flynn popped up in attack for Sudbury and doubled their lead with a long-range shot that beat Winterton at his near post and went in off the woodwork.
The Rocks kept battling away but it just wasn’t happening for them. Charlie Oatway sprayed a pass out to Pearce, whose cross found the head of Robinson - but his effort brought a diving save from Garnham.
Oatway’s shot was headed off the line by Ben Robinson and then Stuart Green outpaced the home defence and lifted a shot over Garnham, but it came back off the post.
Bognor deserved a goal for their perseverance and got it in the 89th minute when Whyte smashed in following a series of half a dozen Bognor corners.
Then came the moment that might have extended the evening as Ben Johnson’s cross was met on the volley on the edge of the box by Pearce. It looked goalbound but Garnham took off to fingertip it away and end any Wembley dreams the Rocks might have had for this season.
Now it’s back to Ryman premier duties and the Rocks host Wingate and Finchley on Saturday.
ROCKS: Winterton, Whyte, Crane, Tuck (Lawson 75), Sackman, Robson, Oatway, Thomson (Green 38), Pearce, Robinson (Parsons 65), Johnson. Unused subs: Warren, Branford.
Report by SIMON COOK
Get all the latest from Nyewood Lane in the bognor Observer on Thursday