Rocks 5 Witham 2
A five-star performance from the Rocks saw them continue their good run of recent home form with victory over Witham.
A four-goal blast inside the first half-hour put them well on their way to another three points, which means they have won five and drawn one of their last six Nyewood Lane matches in the league.
Jason Prior was the man to open the scoring in a blistering first-half attacking display – his 100th goal in a Rocks shirt.
There was drama before the match had even kicked off as James Crane was forced out through injury during the warm-up, with Charlie Oatway coming into the starting XI from the bench.
This was the first time that the two sides had met and there was nearly a quarter of an hour on the clock before either goalkeeper was called into action, with Bognor’s Chris Winterton getting down quickly to block Kurt Smith’s low drive before the ball was cleared.
But the Rocks took the lead on 17 minutes when Jake Thomson’s deep cross from the left was drilled back across by Ollie Pearce. The ball struck a defender, with calls for handball ignored by the referee, but Prior was on hand to slam the loose ball home from ten yards out, meaning he becomes the fourth Rocks player inside the past two decades to reach a century of Rocks goals, joining Adie Miles, Matt Russell and Luke Nightingale in the 100 club.
Two minutes later, the lead was doubled when Alex Parsons was set free on the right before sending over a delightful cross for Pearce to stroke the ball home from 12 yards.
The lead was increased further just three minutes later. Another Parsons cross from the right was headed clear but only into the path of Stuart Green, whose low drive from the edge of the box crept in off the far post.
Parsons was causing the Witham defence all sorts of problems as another cross almost brought another goal as Prior headed just wide.
But just before the half-hour it was 4-0 when a corner from the left was only partially cleared and Doug Tuck’s thumping low drive from just outside the box gave visiting keeper Harry Palmer no chance.
The home crowd were enjoying the goal feast but just as it appeared that the Essex visitors were dead and buried, they hit back with a two-goal burst inside three minutes.
Winterton pulled off a fine save to deny Jack Paxman after the midfielder arrived unmarked at the far post to volley goalwards. But from the resulting corner, Witham debutant Nikki Beale was on hand to scramble the ball home from close range to pull one back on 39 minutes.
Three minutes later, Witham scored again after a Rocks move down the right broke down and Tom Wraight raced down the left to square the ball to Ellis Brown who confidently slotted home.
The two-goal salvo before the break gave Witham fresh hope and they continued where they left off, with a lofted cross palmed away by Winterton while under pressure from substitute Danny Emmanuel.
But any hopes of a comeback from the visitors were effectively ended on 53 minutes when Stuart Green fed the ball to Parsons on the right, and he crossed for Prior to score at the far post for his second.
Soon afterwards, Green made way for substitute Nathan Hawker – the youngster making his first appearance for the Rocks first team.
Back came the visitors and Paxman twisted and turned his way past the Rocks defence before seeing his low drive blocked by Winterton.
On 67 minutes, Witham’s Kurt Smith was sent tumbling in the box but referee David Spain was unimpressed as he felt that the striker had dived and brandished a yellow card to the shellshocked number nine.
Tom Wraight dragged a shot wide of the far post for the visitors, having been sent clear down the left channel, before the Rocks were awarded a free-kick for a trip on substitute Omarr Lawson.
Charlie Oatway sent over the free-kick to the far post but the stretching Prior headed the ball behind for a goal-kick.
With ten minutes to go, the visitors were reduced to ten men as Paxman barged into Parsons as he raced goalwards, with some suggesting that the red card may have been a little harsh on the number eight.
This victory puts the Rocks just four points away from the play-off places.
This Saturday they are at home to in-form Enfield Town.
ROCKS: Winterton, Whyte, Oatway, Tuck (sub Lawson 71), Sackman, Robson, Green (sub Hawker 63), Thomson (sub Johnson 78), Prior, Pearce, Parsons. Sub not used: Branford.
WITHAM: Palmer, Mead (sub Regis 83), Farrell (sub Charles 75), Banton, Beale, Blackman, Brown, Paxman, Maxwell (sub Emmanuel 45), Wraight. Sub not used: King.