Rocks Review: Rocks 2 Merstham 0

The Rocks recovered from a tough start to go six points clear at the top of Ryman one south with victory over Merstham at Nyewood Lane.

James Crane put the hosts in front on 43 minutes before Ashley Robinson came off the bench to double the Rocks’ advantage.

With Whitehawk only able to draw 1-1 with Worthing, it extended the Rocks’ lead in top spot on a day when nine out of 11 games in the division were frozen off.

Nywood Lane thawed out in time for the game to go ahead but Merstham made the early running and Fabio Saravia hit the angle of the bar in the eighth minute with a well-struck free-kick.

The visitors continued to press and could have had the lead three minutes later via an own goal as the ball bobbled just wide of the Bognor goal.

Bognor’s first chance came from Crane as his long-range shot cleared the bar and went out of the ground.

Former Rock Sam Tucknott was causing problems down the right wing and it was his cross on the 14th minute that created the best chance so far. Roscoe Dsane met it at the near post but Craig Stoner pulled off a great one-handed save to deny him.

Four minutes later, Dsane again tested Stoner when he broke free in the box, and it was another one-handed save by the Rocks keeper that kept the scores level.

Tucknott created another chance, this time for himself, with his shot which clipped the outside of the post.

It wasn’t until the 35th minute that Bognor had their first meaningful sight of goal.

A swift counter attack and a neat inter-change of passes between Terry Dodd and Harper set Ben Johnson on a run but the winger’s shot from the edge of the area rolled just past the post.

Stoner continued his faultless display when he comfortably collected a back-post header from Liam Wright; Tucknott again was the provider.

After a quiet first half, Harper was given his first glimpse of goal. He muscled through the defence but the bouncing ball would not drop for him to get a clean shot away and the deflected wide for a corner.

And it was from that corner that Bognor took an undeserved lead.

With just two minutes to go before the break, Crane gave his side a lift as he fired in a volley from ten yards out that flew into the net.

There was still time for Stoner to make another save before the break. A deep cross caught the Rocks’ defence napping and Vasne struck but his close-effort was saved by the home keeper

Bognor changed things around at half-time, with Callum Sherriff and goalscorer Crane being replaced by new defnsive signing Osa Obanwonyi and Ashley Robinson.

The change in personnel came with a change in formation as Harper went to the right of a front three, with Robinson on the left and Dodd in the middle.

It breathed new life into the Rocks as Dodd immediately had a chance early in the second half but his powerful shot was well blocked by the keeper.

On 55 minutes, Robinson made his first contribution and it was a moment well worth waiting for.

The striker picked up the ball just inside the opposition’s half and ran towards goal before unleashing an unstoppable shot into the bottom corner from 30 yards out.

It could have been 3-0 as the Rocks grew in confidence.

Robinson sent Dodd through into the area but his shot was palmed into the path of Harper who somehow managed to head wide from a matter of yards out.

Kane Wills also had opportunities in a good spell of pressure but he mis-hit his volley when in plenty of space in the area.

Bognor continued to press as the half went on, with Dodd being denied by a last-ditch tackle.

On 77 minutes Merstham made a double change. Saravia and Wright went off for Joe Holland and James Fray and three minutes later, Bognor subbed their captain, Johnson, for Ryan Thomson.

Holland had the visitors’ best chance of the second half with a looping header that Stoner clawed away from under the bar.

Robinson continued to look a threat as he set Harper away but the striker’s shot was blocked for a corner.

The hosts continued to look comfortable right up until the final whistle in a match where keeper Stoner deserved the plaudits.

ROCKS: Stoner, Marzetti, Wollers, Crane, Axten, Sheriff, Hayward, Harper, Wills, Dodd, Johnson. Subs used: Robinson, Obamwonyi, Thomson.

The Rocks’ next game is at home to Walton Casuals next Saturday.

GREG MILES