Five-star Bognor given stern test by Chichester City
Bognor won 5-2 at Chichester City as the local rivals continued their pre-season build-up - but in truth there was little to choose for long spells between two sides separated by three leagues.
City certainly troubled their opposition in the first half in particular. In the end though Bognor proved too strong for Chichester, who also made some mistakes, with a double from Ollie Pearce and others from Jimmy Wild, James Crane and Jimmy Muitt.
City groundsman Nigel Booker has done some sterling work at Oaklands Park this summer in the face of a July heatwave and the surface allowed both teams to play the ball around in front of a large crowd bolstered by a significant contingent of Rocks fans.
These supporters will have longer away day trips when the regular season starts for them in their new league to places like Truro, Poole and Gloucester.
Bognor's management team of Jack Pearce, Darin Killpartrick and Gary Charman brought a strong team and with both sides brimming with confidence after recent pre-season performances it was perhaps no surprise that this was a lively contest.
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City were without last season's top scorer Scott Jones, who picked up a knock towards the end of the last friendly against Alresford, so new boys Rob Hutchings and Dave Herbert started together up front. And it was Herbert, the former Arundel player, who gave the home side a deserved lead after 24 minutes, following up a Jack Lee header in the box and forcing the ball past Dan Lincoln.
Herbert might have scored earlier, in the third minute, but lifted his shot over the bar after good work between Hutchings and Kieran Hartley.
The side from the Southern Combination started brightly. Ruben French whipped an inviting cross in just after five minutes and then Hartley had a couple of good chances that he might have done better with.
At the other end Wild narrowly missed out on getting on the end of crosses from first Crane and next Muitt as the visitors used the fixture to try out new ways to get players to combine with Wild.
City keeper Ant Ender also had to get his body behind a speculative drive from Tommy Scutt. A well-timed tackle from Ellis Martin on former team-mate Wild in the box ensured the tall Rocks striker didn't get a shot off. Then from the ensuing corner Chad Field flashed a header inches past the post.
On the half hour mark Herbert found himself in a good position but took a bit too long on the ball after he'd been played through by Hartley.
The visitors had a penalty appeal turned down when the ball cannoned off Harry Williams' chest in the box and out for another corner. From this the ball broke to Pearce some 20 yards out, but his effort was cleared by French and City counter-attacked with Josh Clack, now operating down the left flank. The winger's cross was cleared.
Chi were undone from this resultant corner in the 38th minute as their opponents drove the ball quickly forward. No-one tracked Pearce whose decent finish levelled things.
A minute later it could have been 2-1 to the visitors. Ender flapped at a ball but fortunately for him it landed harmlessly on the roof of the net. Then Williams had to block a shot from Muitt before Dan Beck blasted over.
A mistake from Martin gifted the Rocks the lead. The City skipper played the ball to Pearce and a well-placed cross was headed in from close range by Wild.
It was all Bognor now and Chi had to weather a storm before the break.
This momentum shift carried over into the second half and it was the visitors who carved out the first opportunities. Pearce struck a powerful drive and then Wild got in behind the City defence but couldn't trouble Ender.
Hartley tried his luck from distance and a cross from the dual signing Lorenzo Dolcetti, following a nice exchange with sub Dan Watts. just eluded Hutchings.
Scutt forced a stop from Ender on 52 minutes. The Chi No1 did well to get down and turn the ball on to his post and around for a corner. Seconds later he was called on again to use his upper body to block Wild's attempt this time. However, Ender couldn't prevent Muitt's drive squirming under him and into the bottom corner for 3-1.
This lead was increased ten minutes later when Wild picked out Crane for the Bognor full-back to score with a nice diving header. Chances came and went for Pearce, who proved to be a thorn in City's side, and Wild in a frantic spell where Bognor dominated.
City pulled one back with 15 minutes to go thanks to a Clack free kick following a foul by Corey Heath on Hartley just outside the box.
Pearce wrapped it up for the Vanarama National League South side, slotting in from close range in the 77th minute.
Dolcetti might have pulled another goal back but his strike just dipped over the bar and then George Way, who put in a real shift again in the Chichester midfield, missed a penalty late on.
City boss Miles Rutherford, who might have had his head turned by the Rocks a little while ago when they were looking for a replacement for Jamie Howell, can take much from his side's performance.
He said: “We gave the ball away in silly areas. That hurts a little bit and against quality opposition you'll get punished. I accept mistakes though. I've asked them to pass the ball around. Pre-season is all about the way you play. If you look at the whole game we've done okay.”
City – Ender, Williams, French, Dolcetti, Lee, Martin, Clack, Way, Hutchings, Hartley, Herbert.
Bognor – Lincoln, Whyte, Crane, Block, Heath, Field, Muitt, Beck, Wild, Pearce, Scutt