Rocks Review: Ramsgate 1 Rocks 4

The Rocks blew away worries over their form with a second-half demolition of Ramsgate.

After two straight defeats, some fans had been questioning whether the side would struggle in the wake of Michael Birmingham’s retirement and James Fraser’s departure.

But four second-half goals - including a Jason Prior double - and a performance that many present felt was the team back to their best now suggest defeats to Corinthian Casuals and Mangotsfield were just a blip.

Ramsgate had problems of their own going into this game after a 7-2 home defeat to Needham Market in the FA Trophy, and there was little to choose between the teams in a first half devoid of goalmouth action.

The Rocks showed their attacking intent by starting with Luke Nightingale as well as Prior and Terry Dodd, the veteran playing on the right.

But there were few chances at either end for the first 35 minutes, before Rams keeper Darren Hawkes misjudged a high cross and Terry Dodd’s shot was cleared off the line by Gareth Cornhill.

Minutes later Tim Bond pulled off a superb tackle in his own six-yard box to deny Joe Taylor a clear shot at goal.

A spell of Ramsgate pressure included a header by Mitchell Sherwood that went wide when he looked well-placed to score.

The second half was a different story - and was all about the Rocks and what they could do going forward.

In the 51st minute Prior hammered home from the centre of the penalty area after Nightingale had intelligently headed Ben Johnson’s cross into his path.

Four minutes later Prior and the Rocks had two, the striker’s piledriver too strong for Hawkes after Nightingale’s through-ball.

James Crane was unlucky not to get the third when Hawkes scrambled his shot off the line, while at the other end winger Michael Sherwood’s snap-shot beat Craig Stoner and grazed the outside of the post.

Johnson’s mesmerising run from inside his own half saw him beat five opponents before blazing wide from 12 yards, but he made up for the miss by converting the killer third goal on 77 minutes after Dodd, outstanding all night, outpaced two defenders and played him in.

Dodd was felled in the area with five minutes for a penalty which - with Prior having been substituted - Nightingale converted.

Stoner’s clean sheet was ruined in the 89th minute when Pascal Esigbo outmuscled Bond and Matt Whitehead before cutting in and slipping a shot past the keeper.

Stoner needed to make a magnificent save to prevent a second Ramsgate goal in the fifth minute of injury time as he tipped Warren Schulz’s shot over the bar.

The win was just what the doctor ordered after two straight losses and it delighted the small band of Rocks fans who made the long trip.

Now it’s Sutton who await in the FA Cup on Saturday - and while the Rocks know that will bring their toughest test of the season so far, they can at least go into the game buoyed up by a return to form.

ROCKS: Stoner, Crane, Whitehead, Breach, Axten, Bond, Beck (Blatchford), Dodd, Prior (Ide), Nightingale, Johnson (Wollers). Sub not used: Marzetti.

SIMON COOK