IT wasn’t supposed to be like this.
Bognor’s second visit to the Amex was supposed to be the day they made up for the disappointment of the first.
In the end, their 3-0 Sussex Senior Cup final defeat to Peacehjaven felt just as demoralising – if not more so – than the one against Brighton’s development side a year earlier.
In 2013, few gave the Rocks much hope against the young Seagulls and they duly lost 4-0.
This time they were up against a team who had only just been promoted to the Ryman premier, the division in which the Rocks had just finished third.
Everything was set up for Bognor to lift the Sussex Senior Cup for the first time since 1987. Or so we thought. Instead, the wait goes on.
And as they look back on another final defeat, the men from Nyewood Lane know they had a chance. Several chances, more to the point, in a 20-minute spell of dominance in the first half when the trophy could have been won but when, as it turned out, it was lost.
Jamie Howell’s side ended up well beaten – like last year – and they’ve now fallen at the final hurdle three times in five years.
And it means that what’s been a great season for the team has ended in double disappointment – this defeat coming after their loss in the Ryman premier play-off semi-finals.
Most of the Rocks fans were grouped at one end of the sun-baked ground and they made plenty of noise throughout the afternoon, never giving up on their team even when the game was lost. Ominously, the first two chances fell to Peacehaven with Josh Jones and Tom Burton going close.
Bognor took a while to get into their stride but gradually took control. Their first effort at goal saw Ollie Pearce firing across keeper Anthony Di Bernardo and just wide after pouncing on a loose pass across the defence.
Terry Dodd forced Di Bernardo into his first save with a fierce drive when played into space in the area; then a defender blocked a Rocks’ effort from 20 yards after Stuart Axten’s header from a corner was only half-cleared.
James Crane was denied by Di Bernardo as he tried to flick a through-pass past him from an acute angle.
Dodd hit Sammy Igoe’s lay-off beyond Di Bernardo then watched as it hit one post, bounced along the goalline, struck the other post and came out to be cleared.
Crane tested Di Bernardo again from 15 yards, then Igoe was too high with a shot from outside the box.
Kane Wills beat the keeper to a pass, but when the cross came in with the keeper still getting back, Dodd fluffed the header.
Their failure to score during that spell was to come back and haunt the Rocks.
Almost inevitably, Peacehaven took the lead in the 34th minute as Tom Lawley beat Anthony Ender at his near post with a sweetly-hit low drive.
It took the wind out of Bognor and it wasn’t until after the break that they went close to an equaliser, Pearce curling a shot just wide from long-range.
Doug Tuck sidefooted horribly wide when Craig Robson teed him up, but then the Magpies hit them with a killer second.
Burton was the scorer, heading in from close range at the far post after a right-sided corner had been flicked across goal.
Arron Hopkinson replaced Scott Chamberlain as Bognor looked to turn the tide.
But turn it they couldn’t and the game was lost by the time Josh Jones added insult to injury with a third in injury time, poking in from close range.
At the end, coach Darin Killpartrick, manager Howell and the players trooped over to the Rocks fans to thank them for their superb backing. What a shame there was no cup to parade in front of them.
Rocks: Ender, Hinshelwood, Crane, Tuck, Axten, Robson, Chamberlain, Wills, Dodd, Igoe, Pearce. Subs: Sackman, Hopkinson, Hayes, Morey, Wollers.