ROCKS REVIEW: Rocks 1 Ramsgate 1

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The Rocks were left to rue a hatful of missed chances as they were held to a draw by a dogged Ramsgate side at chilly Nyewood Lane.

Jason Prior scored his 24th goal of the season to cancel out Warren Schulz’s opener, but top scorer and his team-mates had enough chances to notch another victory.

The good news is the point puts the Rocks four points ahead of their nearest challengers at the top of the league.

The Rocks made one change from the team who’d beaten Godalming at the weekend, Jon Marzetti slotting in for the suspended Perry Ryan at right-back. There was no Luke Nightingale, still recovering from a leg injury, so James Fraser and Kane Wills were to share support duties for Prior.

It took eight minutes for the first chance to arrive but when it did, Wills fired wide from eight yards after Ben Johnson drifted a ball to the far post from an attack down the left.

That apart, it was a fairly serene opening for both keepers and sets of defenders.

Wills was getting into some good positions but snatched another shot wide when the ball was played to him 12 yards from goal.

Ransgate had threatened little in the opening 20 minutes but they took the lead on 21 when Schulz met a long, high cross from the left on the volley and saw it crash against Craig Stoner’s right-hand post and go in.

The visitors had a scare as they set about defending their lead when Prior beat keeper Jack Smelt to a hanging cross from the left by James Crane, but he couldn’t direct it on target and it went out for a goal kick.

It ought to have been 2-0 on 28 minutes but a Rocks boot just got to a low ball in from the right before James Gregory could get there to hammer it into a gaping goal.

A minute later Prior looked like he must equalise but he miscued his far-post volley horribly after Crane found Dan Beck and he checked back to play an intelligent cross to pick out the top scorer.

The Rocks produced a bit of goalmouth pinball seven minutes before the break but it was beginning to look like one of those nights for them in front of goal.

But that feeling didn’t last long as Prior swept in the equaliser from a fabulous run and cross by Wills.

A minute later Fraser might have given the Rocks the lead as he raced away down the inside-right channel but he blazed his drive over the bar without troubling Smelt.

It was a different game all of a sudden and Prior released Crane for a shot on the edge of the area but it was with his weaker left foot and Smelt gathered easily. Soon Fraser had the ball in another dangerous area but his inswinging cross had too much on it.

The Rocks had created more clear openings in the final five minutes of the half than in the previous 40.

Mitchell Sherwood found an alarming amount of space down the Ramsgate right in first-half stoppage time but Stoner was alert enough to claim his cross.

HT 1-1

Ramsgate brought on Simon Pettit for Paul Axon at the start of the second half.

The Rocks put a couple of dangerous balls into the box early in the half, but they came to nothing. Fraser did get a head on one ball in but his marker got something on it too.

One Johnson corner almost fell for Prior but in his keenness to meet it, he fouled a defender.

With the pressure building, Prior flicked on another corner and Stuart Axten’s header was nodded off the line.

Yet another corner was worked out to Michael Birmingham in the D and his dipping volley was palmed over by Smelt.

A second Ramsgate change introduced Joe Taylor to the action in place of Mark Lovell.

Beck was next to chance his arm, but his left-foot volley from 20 yards was a shade too high.

Prior missed another gilt-edged chance on the hour when Johnson picked him out at the far post, volleying wide - but not as wide as he had from a similar position in the first half.

Prior shaped to head in his second of the night on 63 minutes before a defender flicked it away for a corner, from which Birmingham’s chip into the box was dealt with by the visitors.

Crane was booked after the referee ruled he had pulled back his man as Ramsgate broke from a quick goal kick, then Birmingham and one of the Ramsgate bosses in the technical area earned a lecture for a slanging match which followed a clash between Prior and Liam Quinn.

Fraser went close after a snappy one-two with Johnson but didn’t get enough power in his lob and the keeper gathered.

Dan Royce came on for Beck and was soon in the action, glancing a header which Smelt held after a free-kick was deflected into Marzetti’s path. Soon it was Prior’s turn to test Smelt with a header but that too was a comfortable take for him.

Virtually all the play was in the Ramsgate half – and much of it was in their 18-yard box – but there was no-one to get on the end of any of the numerous balls into the box.

They were lining up for take shots at goal and Royce took a turn but drove straight at Smelt from 25 yards.

Ten minutes remained when Phil Turner replaced Fraser, with the 346 crowd wondering if the Rocks could produce a bit of late drama.

In fact the drama almost came at the Rocks end when a Ramsgate corner was headed goalwards and had to be headed off the line by a defender.

Now it was Ramsgate’s turn to put the pressure on with a series of free-kicks and corners.

The Rocks seemed to have blown out their own storm and were now struggling to get the ball forward with any purpose.

Match sponsor Graeme Bradford named Prior as man of the match.

It was nervy stuff as the officials indicated four extra minutes, with neither team seeming keen to commit too many men forward.

Amazingly the Rocks had two great chances to win it in the final added-on minute. Prior made contact with one cross but his header bounced into the keeper’s hands, then the striker couldn’t quite connect with sub Turner’s ball in from the right.

As the Ramsgate goalkeeper left the ground, he was heard to say he couldn’t remember his team ever being put under the cosh as much.

Rocks: Stoner, Marzetti, Crane, Wills, Axten, Bond, Beck, Birmingham, Prior, Fraser, Johnson. Subs: Royce, Wood, Whitehead, Turner, Marshall.

Ramsgate: Smelt, Gray, Gregory, Wheatley, Quinn, Laslett, Beech, Schulz, Lovell, Sherwood, Axon. Subs: Harker, Taylor, Pettit, Winnett, Mills.

Ref: B Knight

Report by Steve Bone