Four games in a week - four wins in a week. That’s the Rocks’ impressive tally after they overcame Burgess Hill 2-1 with a late penalty in front of a big Easter Monday crowd at Nyewood Lane.
It was hard work - which it was bound to be after so many games in a short space of time - but Jamie Howell’s team battled to the end for another valuable three points to strengthen their position in the play-off places.
Jason Prior was the goal hero on this occasion, putting the Rocks in front after 25 minutes with a simple finish and then securing the points with a late penalty.
In between Burgess Hill fought back valiantly and probably went home feeling aggrieved to be empty-handed.
It was Bognor’s fourth game in seven days, though they went into it in good heart having won the previous three, versus Harrow, Grays and Needham Market.
See Rocks coach Darin Killpartrick’s verdict on the game in our video interview, above
The Rocks started very positively and Alfie Rutherford flashed a shot narrowly wide from outside the area. Then Rutherford found space for a decent cross from the left that Ollie Pearce almost got to before Hillians keeper Josh James, one of five former Bognor players in the visitors’ starting line-up.
James Crane got his head on the end of a high Pearce cross without troubling the keeper. Then Prior’s lay-off teed up Pearce for a 20-yard volley on 14 minutes that was well-struck but wide.
A spell of pressure just after the halway point of the first half ended in Alex Parsons’ half-volley from 25 yards flying over.
It had been a pedestrian opening 25 minutes but the Rocks brought the home crowd to life with the opening goal.
Rutherford rode a challenge to break down the left and it was two against one when he squared to Parsons on the edge of the area. The chance looked lost when his shot was blocked but as the crowd appealed for handball, Prior pounced on the loose ball and gave James no chance with a fierce low finish.
Pearce might have doubled the tally within a minute but skewed his shot wide when well placed.
Rutherford should have made it two on 32 minutes but shot wide of the near post on the run after Harvey Whyte and Parsons combined to play him into the ideal shooting position.
Scott Kirkwood’s sweetly-hit 25-yard volley after a cross was headed out to him was straight at Grant Smith, still sporting a bandage to protect his Blundell Park head injury. That was Hill’s best effort to date.
Burgess Hill were playing their part in a fairly-open game and two minutes before the break, Lee Harding was played clear in the box only to be denied by a superbly-timed Crane tackle. The corner was headed only just over Smith’s bar.
Jack Rowe-Hurst replaced Pat Harding for Hillians for the start of the second half.
Lee Harding cut inside and curled a shot over the bar in the opening minute of the second period.
The Hillians were on the front foot and Smith did well to pluck Sam Fisk’s cross from the air with Harding lurking at the far post.
Gary Charman replaced Doug Tuck ten minutes into the second half.
Pearce and Rutherford combined to cause alarm in the Burgess Hill defence after a long kick by Smith, but it was the visitors doing most of the attacking.
The same duo teamed up again and Rutherford rolled a shot goalwards that was deflected for a corner on 59 minutes. From the corner Prior rose unmarked at the far post but headed inches wide.
Will Miles went into the book for halting Parsons as he flew towards the penalty area after a pass down the right. The free-kick came to nothing.
Former Rock Callum Overton replaced another ex-Nyewood Lane player Darren Budd on 67 minutes.
Another of Hill’s ex-Rocks, James Fraser, tested Smith with a drive from well outside the box after an energetic run from halfway, but the keepr was equal to it.
A long, high free-kick from wide on the Hillians left almost caught out Smith but he held the ball just in front of the goal-line. But in their next attack, Burgess Hill did equalise as Harding beat Smith with a close-range shot that flew into the top corner.
Could the Rocks find the energy to regain the lead, or at least hold on for the draw? They looked tired but kept going and found new energy from somewhere.
Parsons blazed over from a tight angle with 11 minutes left. Then he turned provider with a high hanging cross into the six-yard box which Rutherford got his head on but sent wide.
Pearson picked up a mystery booking - possibly for dissent - with eight minutes left.
Bognor cleared a cross straight to Fraser 25 yards but he rushed the shot and poked it well wide.
But just as it began to look like the Rocks’ winning run was about to come to an end, they retook the lead five minutes from the end - from the spot.
The penalty was given when a defender handled after keeper James failed to claim a Pearce cross. The referee didn’t see the offence but the linesman alerted him and after a long delay as the Hillians protested, Prior calmly put away the kick.
Snorre Nilsen replaced Parsons and for Burgess Hill, Dan Pearse came on for Joe Keehan.
In stoppage time, Rowe-Hurst sneaked in ahead of Smith for a header that was deflected for a corner.
There were a couple more nervous moments as the Hillians put everything into claiming a point but Bognor defended in numbers and held out for those valuable points.
Next up, just the small matter of four away games in seven days - starting at Enfield on Thursday and continuing with Dulwich Hamlet on Saturday, Kingstonian on Monday and Burgess Hill on Wednesday, April 6.
As for the Hillians, they remain 18th in the Ryman premier and should be safe from the drop. They go to Billericay on Saturday.
Rocks: Smith, Whyte, Crane, Tuck, El-Abd, Field, Rutherford, Beck, Prior, Pearce, Parsons. Subs: Charman, Nilsen, Green, Wollers, Robson.
Burgess Hill: James, Doherty, Fisk, Budd, Pearson, Miles, Kirkwood, Keehan, P Harding, Fraser, L Harding. Sub: Rowland, Overton, Gayler, Pearse, Rowe-Hurst.
Ref: William Bull (Winchester)
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