An 87th-minute goal spelled the end of the Rocks’ Sussex Senior Cup hopes for another year.
Both teams took the opportunity of resting key players for this low-key Sussex senior Cup match, played in front of a sparse crowd of only 181 at a rain-lashed Dripping Pan.
Bognor gave an opportunity to Dean Maynard and Charlie Marshall up front, and there were welcome returns from long-term injury for both Stuart Axten and Phil Turner, who both received welcome run-outs in the second half.
The home side started the brighter of the two teams and David Wheeler should have given Lewes a lead in only the second minute, but sliced his shot wide from an excellent position. Paul Olima, leading the home attack, had an excellent chance a few minutes later but headed just over.
The Rocks were battling the wind in the first half, and although they put a number of good moves together, failed to create many worthwhile scoring opportunities.
Matt Wood and Dan Royce combined well midway through the half, but Royce’s cross was too high for Charlie Marshall. Moments later Marshall set off on a dazzling run, beating four defenders before slipping the ball through to Wood, whose goal attempt was diverted for a corner.
Wood did have a powerful shot from long distance but home keeper Chris Winterton was content to watch it drift past his fast post.
Just before the break, an excellent Michael Birmingham free-kick from the edge of the area was headed just over by Royce as he attempted to repeat his goal heroics from Saturday’s match at Whitehawk. Lewes did have several chances of their own, but failed to concern Craig Stoner unduly after the first few minutes.
Axten came on for the start of the second half, and had to be alert more than once to stifle the threat of Olima and the lively James Rowe. Olima should have capitalised on a defensive slip just after the break but headed wide with the goal at his mercy.
Bognor then enjoyed a period where they had the majority of possession, with some excellent passing football. Maynard capitalised on a mishit by Marshall to steer the ball past the home keeper on 51 minutes but he was judged offside and the goal did not stand. The impressive Jon Marzetti enjoyed an excellent game and tried hard to create opportunities as he drove forward down the right. Too often however Bognor’s moves broke down on the edge of the area.
On the one occasion an opportunity presented itself, Maynard should have scored following a flowing move between Marzetti and Turner, but his shot from six yards was just tipped around the post by Winterton.
The home keeper then saved a strong Royce shot, before Jason Rowe had a good opportunity for Lewes. Stoner saved well following a goalmouth scramble, but with the keeper out of position, Rowe blazed over from ten yards out.
With just three minutes to go Lewes took the lead. A determined run down the right by David Wheeler was followed a low, hard cross into the box, perfectly positioned just beyondStoner’s reach. The unfortunate Axten had no opportunity to get out of the way as the ball rebounded off him into the net, although Jason Rowe was following up and will be annoyed not to have notched the winning goal himself.
In the dying moments Stoner did well to prevent a second goal by saving well from Rivers, and again Maynard should have scored deep into injury time from a pinpoint Phil Turner cross.
Although the Rocks management team will be glad to be able to return to the quest for promotion on Saturday, they will perhaps be disappointed they failed to take advantage of a game that Bognor could have won.
Lewes go on to meet Brighton or Sidley in the next round.
ROCKS: Stoner, Marzetti, Beck, Wood (Turner), Ryan, Bond (Axten), Wills, Birmingham, Marshall (Prior), Maynard, Royce. Unused subs: Johnson, Crane.
Report by Simon Cook