Rocks Review: Rocks 1 Leiston 1

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A goal by man-of-the-match Ollie Pearce earned the Rocks a point in a mid-table clash with Leiston – but they probably headed home thinking it should have been three.

They had by far the better share of the possession but once again failed to turn it into the goals – and the win - that would have given everyone a lift after a tough run of results.

They can at least head into a hectic Easter programme – which starts away to leaders Whitehawk on Good Friday – pretty sure they won’t be involved in any relegation battle.

After another postponement last Saturday, when their visit to Harrow was washed out, the Rocks were keen to get back into action to rediscover some of the form that took them into the play-off places earlier in the season.

In recent weeks, a 1-0 home success over Wingate & Finchley has been their only league win in ten – a run that’s seen them slip to 13th spot with the squad decimated by injuries, retirements and departures.

There was a double blow for the management with both Dan Beck and Jon Marzetti unavailable. But there were starts for Dan Kempson and Lewis Stockford, and well-again Harvey Whyte. Sam Pearce and Josh Warren again partnered one another in the centre of defence.

Leiston, 11th in the table, arrived only half an hour before kick-off after a long journey from Suffolk for a game originally due to have been played on the Saturday before Christmas.

The Rocks started with James Crane at right-back and a midfield three of Stockford, Kempson and skipper Kane Wills.

Kempson was the first to chance his arm, sending a well-struck shot from 25 yards into keeper Glyn Dixon’s arms.

The Rocks were almost gifted the opening goal in the fourth minute when a miscued clearance enabled Ollie Pearce to bear down on Dixon, but his touch wasn’t firm enough to find the net.

In a bright start from the Rocks, Ollie Pearce set Kempson awayu down the left but he was caught in two minds between a cross and a shot and it went out for a goal kick.

Whyte’s deflected shot earned the Rocks the game’s first corner in the tenth minute but Leiston cleared comfortably. They soon won another corner, which twice led to the visitors needing desperate defence to get it away.

It was one-way traffic and Whyte’s mazy run took out three players before he was crowded out in the box.

The Rocks again almost had the ball in the net on 15 minutes when Dixon fumbled a high cross, but he was rather fortunate to be given a free-kick.

Crane and Whyte swopped passes down the right and the full-back put a perfect cross on Terry Dodd’s head, but a defender’s challenge was enough to deny him.

Leiston’s first meaningful effort arrived on 21 minutes when Emmanuel Osei controlled a cross by Rhys Henry and sent a volley into Craig Stoner’s side netting.

No sooner had they threatened than Leiston were ahead, Michael Brothers firing low past Stoner when a cross from the right flew across the six-yard box and wasn’t dealt with by the home defence.

The Rocks fans present must have been thinking they’d seen it all before with another case of the Rocks dominating the first quarter of a game then going behind.

Ollie Pearce’s inswinging cross from the left was their best chance of a quick reply but it was headed to safety.

Another Rocks attack ending with no-one getting a shot in goal brought Darin Killpartrick to the touchline demanding better.

Ollie Pearce was the Rocks’ stand-out player in the first half and on 33 minutes his run down the left ended in a cross that Dixon had to backtrack to tip over the bar. The corner again came to nothing.

The Rocks were indebted to Stoner on 36 minutes – he produced a brilliant stop with his legs to deny Brothers a second after he had time to turn and shoot.

Leiston’s goal had given them confidence and if anything they now looked most likely to get the next goal.

But football rarely works as you think it is going to and sure enough it was the Rocks who struck next, equalising on 40 minutes with a goal for Ollie Pearce – no more than he deserved – as he touched in Whyte’s fierce low shot from 20 yards that followed a corner being only half-cleared.

HT 1-1

Whyte was the first to make an impression after the break as he ran on to a long ball and looked favourite to get there first but he was muscled out of it at the critical moment.

It was a bright start to the second period for the hosts and Ollie Pearce tested Dixon at his near post with a low drive on 52 minutes.

Leiston had their moments too and weren’t allowing Bognor to have it all their own way. As if to prove it, George Wilson’s sidefooted drive from 15 yards was fingertipped on to the bar by Stoner and away for a corner.

Just before the hour, Dodd went down under a heavy challenge from right-back David Head which angered the home crowd.

Leiston threatened again when Brothers worked himself clear on the byline and pulled back a cross which Stoner had to palm away.

Dodd had obviously taken a knock in his earlier tackle as Simon Woods came on to replace him on 62 minutes.

It was anyone’s game and the Rocks were doing plenty of attacking although much of their forward play was hurried.

But Ollie Pearce did well to work an opening for himself as he cut inside from the left and fired a bouncing ball over the bar.

The midway point of the second half brought the Rocks’ second change – Doug Tuck replacing Kempson.

Daryl Wollers took things into his own hands with 20 minutes left when he tried a lofted shot from 35 yards but it drifted wide.

Stoner timed a run out of his goal beautifully to deny Henry after Osei’s carefully-weighted through-pass.

The keeper then gave the Rocks a scare when he went down clutching his ankle after a strong challenge by Nathan Stone as he tried to deal with an awkward back pass by Crane.

The crowd were becoming frustrated with a few decisions by ref Matt Eva.

Warren missed a glorious chance to put the Rocks in front when he glanced wide an unchallenged near-post header from a corner.

Another corner brought another opportunity three minutes from time when Sam Pearce got up highest and nodded it down, but Ollie Pearce’s attempt to flick it in went awry.

An even closer call followed as Crane fed Whyte in the box and he sent in a shot that was deflected just past the post for a corner.

There was controversy deep into injury time when Pearce went down in the area but was booked for diving.

Rocks: Stoner, Stockford, Wollers, Crane, S Pearce, Warren, Kempson, Wills, Dodd, O Pearce, Whyre. Subs: Woods, Tuck, Cody, Boyle.

Leiston: Dixon, Head, P Brothers, Driver, Jefford, Boardley, Henry, Wilson, Osei, Stone, M Brothers. Subs: Tuwizana, Block, Merritt, Codington, R Heath.

Ref: Matt Eva

Att: 264

STEVE BONE

Get all the latest from Nyewood Lane in the Observer - out on Thursday