PIC SPECIAL: Bognor in FA Trophy quarter-final draw after holding Sutton

Jason Prior looked certain to score with this first-half chance / Picture by Tim Hale
Jason Prior looked certain to score with this first-half chance / Picture by Tim Hale

AND so it goes on. The Rocks’ run in the FA Trophy, that is, and their ever-longer list of fine performances and results against higher-division opponents.

Bognor had already beaten two higher-league rivals in the FA Cup and three in the FA Trophy before the last 16 of the latter competition gave them a trip to another National League South side, Sutton.

Would this be where the run ended? The way the game began, with United on the front foot and attacking in number, it looked like it might be.

But the Rocks grew in belief and as the game went on they matched their hosts - and ended up much the stronger side.

It was Sutton, flying high in NLS in the play-off places, who were glad to hear the final whistle, and now the sides will meet again under the Nyewood Lane lights on Tuesday night.

Before then, Bognor will be in the quarter-final draw and they are there on merit following another gritty display against a team who were favourites to beat them.

The hundreds of Rocks fans in the 1,258 crowd enjoyed their day out and will be equally relishing the rematch and the ongoing prospect - although it is still a long shot - of seeing their team in the Wembley final.

At a very windy but dry Gander Green Lane, Bognor lined up with Ollie Pearce and Craig Robson starting and Alfie Rutherford and Chad Field on the bench.

There was a second-minute scare for Bognor when Jamie Collins’ header from Dan Wishart’s corner flashed just wide of the post with Grant Smith stranded.

It was Sutton who looked the brighter in a fantastic atmosphere in which both sets of fans were making themselves heard.

Dan Spence fired in a cross-shot from wide on the right that Smith had to get down to sharply - and the keeper was alert to Ross Stearn’s cross from the same side half a minute later.

Bognor’s first foray into the box saw keeper Ross Worner claim an Ollie Pearce free-kick off the head of Sami El-Abd.

The Rocks almost paid the price on ten minutes when a defender failed to shepherd the ball out for a goal-kick. His marker kept it in and pulled a cross back for Craig Dundas, whose ten-yard volley was athletically stopped on his line by Smith.

It was a nervous start by the Rocks, who were unable to get the ball and keep it for any length of time.

The blustery wind was not helping either side on what seemed like a day to keep the ball on the deck.

Bognor really should have gone ahead on 16 minutes when Worner could only parry Snorre Nilsen’s fierce drive and it fell a few yards out to Prior, who it seemed must score. But he fluffed his connection and it went wide - much to the dismay of the massed Rocks fans behind that goal.

Stearn then streaked away at the other end and fired a shot just wide of Smith’s near post.

The keeper came to Bognor’s rescue by saving Stearn’s low shot with his leg - then Craig Eastmond fired the rebound over.

Harvey Whyte led a quick Rocks break on 25 minutes and played Pearce in for a run on goal, but when he tried to deliver a return ball to Whyte and Prior in the box it was cut out for a corner.

Nilsen almost beat the outrushing goalie to a ball down the right wing but although he blocked the clearance it flew out for a goal-kick.

Stearn blasted over from eight yards just after the half-hour after good work to set him up by Stuart Fleetwood - like Prior at the other end, he had no excuse not to hit the target.

Dundas picked up the game’s first yellow card for a cynical foul on Nilsen as the Rocks broke from inside their own half.

Wishart followed him into the book by intercepting a long crossfield ball with his hand.

As the teams went in goalless at the break, the Rocks could feel reasonably satisfied with having weathered the early Sutton storm and grown in confidence.

HT 0-0

Alfie Rutherford replaced Alex Parsons for the start of the second half.

The opening stages of the second half were rather scrappy, with the wind making it increasingly tough to play coherent football. A couple of injuries requiring treatment brought further hold-ups and one saw Whyte hobble off after a heavy tumble, replaced by Calvin Davies.

A Pearce corner led to a scramble in the box and when Rutherford got a whack on the head, the away fans wanted a penalty - but it was Sutton who were given a free-kick instead.

Sutton’s Nicky Bailey probably wanted to blame the wind for a wildly-off-target shot and the Bognor went down the other end and Rutherford just took a moment too long to shoot with the ball at his feet eight yards out, and Sutton cleared.

Bailey was booked on 65 minutes for hauling down Rutherford as the teenager surged into the Sutton half with his eye on goal. Then the free-kick fell to James Crane and his cross from the left only just eluded Prior.

The Rocks were enjoying their best spell of the game and Rutherford was unsettling the home defence.

Fleetwood curled one goalwards but it was too high on 69 minutes. Then Tom Bolarinwa tried a similar tactic but it was straight at Smith.

Rutherford’s weaving run teed up Prior for a 25-yard effort but it was too high.

Sutton brought on Bedsente Gomis for Eastmond on 76 minutes.

There was a theme to Sutton’s efforts at goal - Bailey curled another one well over the bar.

The physios were on again after a clash of heads between Crane and Bolarinwa.

Pearce’s sweetly-hit volley from 25 yards was bound for the top corner but plucked out of the air - then Rutherford closed down the keeper as he cleared a through ball on the edge of his area, but the ball trickled wide.

Davies was off-target with a 20-yarder with three minutes of the 90 to go. Then Tuck went even closer with a 20-yard volley that was inches wide afyer Prior’s cross was cleared to him.

Rocks: Smith, Whyte, Crane, Tuck, El-Abd, Robson, Nilsen, Beck, Prior, Pearce, Parsons. Subs: Rutherford, Davies, Field, Green, Charman.


Follow the replay action live on this website on Saturday evening - and get all the action and reaction from both games in the Bognor Observer on Thursday.

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