THE ROCKS’ title hopes took a hit when they could only manage a point at home against Walton & Hersham.
Whitehawk’s win at Corinthian Casuals puts them in the driving seat to finish first after next Saturday’s final round of game - and a victory for Dulwich Hamlet over Faversham leaves the Rocks third, and facing a second year in the play-offs.
Jamie Howell and Darin Killpartrick take their team to play Maidstone next Saturday still with a slim chance of the title, but needing to win themselves and needing the two sides above both to fail to win.
Against Faversham, Bognor welcomed Dan Beck back into the starting XI after he recovered from a shoulder injury. Callum Sheriff was in central defence for the penultimate game of the season to replace the suspended Stuart Axten, sent off against Sittingbourne a fortnight ago.
Ben Johnson beat Josh Webb for pace on the left before getting a cross in. Ashley Robinson was nearest to it, but he couldn’t quite get there to divert it towards goal.
Then Johnson darted in among Walton & Hersham defenders before getting a shot away - only for it to deflect off a defender and to safety.
Johnson’s right-sided corner was flicked on to James Crane, who forced Rodney Chiweshe into a reaction save.
Phil Williams was put through on goal for the visitors, but with only Craig Stoner to beat he drove his shot straight at the goalkeeper.
Johnson’s dribbling skills paid off again as he found Robinson with a square pass just outside the box. But Robinson blasted well over the bar.
Robinson and Johnson combined again to supply Wills inside the area but the midfielder’s shot was disappointing.
Purposeful counter-attacking from the visitors saw them utilise space on the left flank. A flat cross from Shaun Elliott was headed away by Sheriff, who rose highest.
The Swans maintained the pressure and Jason Henry hit a low shot from 22 yards that came back off the post. Williams was there on the rebound but failed to capitalise.
Beck gathered possession on the right before passing to Johnson, who had a shot from outside the box that was comfortably saved.
On 35 minutes Terry Dodd looked as though he had strayed offside in a Bognor counter-attack involving Crane. But eventually James Nicholas cleared the danger from a Johnson cross.
The visitors hit the post a second time on 37 minutes. It was Henry again - this time with a cross which beat Stoner before ricocheting off the upright and bouncing out. Stoner had to punch clear a cross from the left seconds later.
Robinson won a free-kick just outside the box. Beck stepped over the ball before Johnson drove his shot straight at the defensive wall.
Webb slipped after Wills’ forward pass, allowing Crane to take the time to compose himself and shoot. His curling effort forced a diving save to Chiweshe’s left.
Robinson chipped the ball into the middle for Johnson, who prodded it forward towards Crane, but the goalkeeper got there first.
Another slip-up – this time from Nicholas – allowed Crane to get through and square the ball into the box for Dodd, who scooped into the net from inside the box to give the Rocks an interval lead.
Bognor looked livelier in the second half and Johnson’s cross was only just headed away for a corner. Wills’ corner was blocked.
Another corner by Johnson found Crane, but he was wide with his glancing header.
Henry’s dipping cross was well stopped by Stoner at the near post before the Rocks hit their opponents on the counter again on 56 minutes. Wills latched on to a loose ball after a corner from the visitors to speed forward and shoot. With the Swans outnumbered at the back, he swirled his shot high and wide.
Jon Marzetti flicked the ball neatly over Elliott on the right side but his deep cross went out for a goal kick.
Ben Andrews received a booking for tripping a player.
With 20 minutes to go, a forward ball to Crane was shielded by the sliding Webb, who controlled the ball with his hand and was shown a yellow card.
Wills’ forward ball from a free-kick was awkward for the defence to deal with and the defender headed the ball straight to Dodd. The striker composed himself but rushed his shot, which was saved.
The Rocks were rueing their missed chances as the equaliser came on 76 minutes. Williams’ quick movement down the left freed him up to cross. The ball flew past one player before finding Henry, who was waiting near the back post and made no mistake from close range.
A bouncing cross saw sub Steve Harper have a terrific chance to give the Rocks the lead again. His fierce shot on the rise was somehow kept out by the impressive Chiweshe, who clawed it out with one arm.
Dodd found himself with space in yet another counter-attack and got the ball across for another sub, Harvey Whyte, with a low cross. But the winger rolled a feeble shot wide of the right post.
A yellow card was shown to Crane for a late tackle on Williams, who had looked dangerous all afternoon.
In stoppage time Darryl Wollers had a momentary lapse in concentration, leading to him gifting the ball inside the box to Ashlee Quashie, but luckily for the full-back, the sub was closed down swiftly.
Stoner sped forward for a late corner. The ball was eventually gathered by Chiweshe and when he threw it out quickly, the ball made it past the halfway line with Stoner still trying to get back.
But Henry was deemed to be in an offside position, sparking bemused scenes from the opposing dugout. Henry was booked for refusing to accept the decision.
The Rocks’ hopes withered further as Crane’s poor cross ended a disappointing day at Nyewood Lane.
They remained unbeaten at home all season in the league - something that has never been done in this division before - but will hope to step their game up for the trip to Sittingbourne to play Maidstone on Saturday.
ROCKS: Stoner, Marzetti (Cobbs 82), Wollers, Crane, Sheriff, Andrews, Beck © (Whyte 63), Wills, Robinson (Harper 72), Dodd, Johnson. Unused Subs: Gonnella, Boyle.
Next week’s other key games: Burgess Hill v Dulwich Hamlet; Whitehawk v Chipstead.