Rocks Review: Another case of what might have been? Not this time...

Dan Thompson tries to find a way past Brighton for the Rocks  Picture by Tommy McMillan
Dan Thompson tries to find a way past Brighton for the Rocks Picture by Tommy McMillan

There were a number of times during the season when Rocks fans wondered ‘what might have been’.

What might have been in terms of a play-off bid if a series of major injuries had not hit the squad?

What might have been if they’d not lost form just as they threatened to break into the top five? And so on.

And at the end of a 4-0 defeat in Saturday’s Sussex Senior Cup final against Brighton’s development squad at the Amex – the biggest stage most will ever see the team play on – some will have been saying it again.

What might have been if Ollie Pearce’s penalty had gone in? What might have been if the Seagulls hadn’t got a second goal 20 seconds after half-time?

But this time, there was a different view, too: that even if those two moments hadn’t gone against the Rocks, they’d still have lost.

Coach Darin Killpartrick felt Brighton were so much the better side, they’d still have won. And it was easy to see what he meant.

For although it took three second-half goals to kill off the Rocks’ hopes of springing a shock and lifting the trophy, for long periods Brighton were by far the superior side.

They bossed the game’s first quarter and pretty much all the second half. At times, the game had an air of a training session, with Brighton playing out some well-rehearsed moves then just stepping up a gear when they needed to.

In the end, Bognor’s players were probably relieved to hear the final whistle. They’d given their all and didn’t deserve to lose by any more than the four goals they did let in.

The Rocks deserve huge credit for a battling performance. They might have lacked some of Brighton’s quality but certainly didn’t lack effort.

Even when the game was lost they tried to play football the Bognor way. They chased everything that was there to be chased and didn’t let heads drop.

The nerves that looked evident among the Nyewood Lane troops early on, when they let the young home side run the show, disappeared during the first half and their confidence grew.

They might have equalised – from the spot and at other times – and even at 2-0 and 3-0 down, they might have nabbed a goal that could at least have made the outcome closer.

But in the end, Brighton were simply too good and won by the same score they had recorded in the 2010 final between the same teams at Eastbourne Borough.

The green army, for the most part, enjoyed their day out. Some were unhappy at over-zealous stewarding – one or two were thrown out for standing up – and others felt the Amex was not suitable for a final that’s only ever going to attract a couple of thousand people.

Just one side of the ground was open and despite some brilliant singing and chanting by the Rocks fans, who took great delight in pointing out both the size and the silence of the home contingent, there’s only so much you can do when more than three-quarters of the ground is empty.

There were at least 1,500 Rocks fans among the crowd of 2,435 and you couldn’t help thinking what fun it would be if the team could somehow win the right to play on this sort of stage in the FA Cup – with a full ground of home fans to ‘take on’.

STEVE BONE