Rocks and Rooks Review: Bognor 3 Lewes 1

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TWO goals from man of the moment Ollie Pearce earned the Rocks a welcome Ryman premier win - and left Lewes sweating on relegation.

Pearce scored close-range goals in each half either side of a Steve Brinkhurst equaliser for the Rooks and a rare Kane Wills goal that restored the home side’s lead.

The result shoots down any lingering fears the Rocks might have had about a relegation battle and puts them in good heart for Wednesday’s Sussex Senior Cup semi-final.

The Rocks welcomed Lewes to town knowing it was for a game between two out-of-form sides.

While Jamie Howell’s team have struggled for form over the past two months, the Rooks slipped to 18th place with a home defeat to Hastings on Saturday. The Rocks had lost seven of their past ten league games – Lewes eight.

With Harvey Whyte the latest serious injury victim in the Rocks camp – he broke his collarbone in the Good Friday defeat at Whitehawk – they started with three strikers, Terry Dodd back in the side to join Ollie Pearce and Dan Thompson. Craig Stoner was back in goal after missing the Whitehawk game with toothache.

Lewes included a couple of ex-Rocks players in their starting line-up: defender Chris Breach and winger Brinkhurst.

The Rocks kicked off unusually attacking the clubhouse end in the first half. They began with James Crane at left-back and Ollie Pearce in a wide-left attacking role.

It was a fairly robust opening to the match from the Rocks, who enjoyed most of the early possession without threatening Lewes’ luminous-yellow clad keeper Kieron Thorp.

The fact that neither keeper had a save to make – serious or otherwise – in the first 15 minutes perhaps said it all about the two teams’ recent struggles.

The Rocks did fashion a chance just after the quarter-hour when Ollie Pearce got free down the left and pulled a cross back from the byline that Dodd was close to converting. That led to the game’s first corner, which Lewes cleared with ease.

Soon after, Dodd’s header looked like it was going in until full-back Joe Kay headed clear.

Lewes finally started to gain some confidence and Callum Dunne almost made Josh Warren pay for dallying on the ball 30 yards from goal, dispossessing him and floating a shot over Stoner but wide.

The best effort of the game to date came when skipper Wills picked up possession midway inside the Lewes half, progressed past two visiting players and fired a fierce shot into Thorp’s side netting.

As the game wore on, it became increasingly like a derby - with tackles flying in from all angles and the referee suddenly having a bit of control to keep.

A promising Rocks move was halted by an offside flag on the half-hour, Ollie Pearce having strayed in picking up a cross-area pass by Dodd that put him in with a sight of goal.

Former Rock Brinkhurst was beginning to look a threat at inside right although one surge forward ended in a cross to no-one when he should have shot.

Dodd forced Thorp into a leaping save with a well-struck shot from 20 yards after exchanging passes with Thompson.

The Rocks were building a bit of momentum and Pearce put them ahead when he was in exactly the right place at the right time at the far post to convert Crane’s long cross from the left, which came after good work from Kempson.

Lewes were on the ropes and Dodd’s intricate pass found Thompson in the box but he wanted one touch too many and it was cleared.

From the corner, the Rocks had three shots at goal but all were blocked. One of them knocked Thompson to the floor and he needed brief attention before play resumed.

The half-time lead was no more than the Rocks deserved.

HT 1-0

Daryl Wollers replaced Marzetti for the start of the second half, which meant Crane switching from left to right-back.

Pearce curled a free-kick too close to Thorp from a couple of yards outside the box after Dan Beck was hacked down.

There was a disjointed feel to the start of the second half, with neither side able to string anything together without the whistle stopping them in their tracks.

But Lewes levelled on 57 minutes when Warren missed a through-ball, leaving Brinkhurst to run through and take time to round Stoner and slot into the empty net.

The visitors immediately brought on Nathan Crabb for Ben Godfrey.

Ollie Pearce was close to restoring the Rocks’ lead when he met a flicked-on Wollers free-kick at the far post, but a challenge from a defender forced him to find the side netting.

Four minutes after his equalier, Brinkhurst should have had a second when a simple ball over the top put him in on Stoner again, but this time he rolled his shot wide as Stoner advanced.

Ollie Pearce and Thompson combined well to set up another chance for the hosts but Thompson again took too long over controlling the return pass from his team-mate and the chance was gone.

The Rocks made another change on 65 minutes with Lewis Stockford replacing Sam Pearce, who must have taken a knock.

Darin Killpartrick was doing his best to spur on his team from the sidelines. The gane was becoming more and more frenetic with both teams looking like they thought it provided a great chance of three points.

As if to prove it, the Rocks regained the lead when a quick break that stemmed from a Lewes corner ended in a ball over the top from Ollie Pearce playing in Wills, who clamly took the ball on, steadied himself and lashed a fine finish past Thorp.

Lewes made a second change when Tommy Brewer came on to replace Lewis Hamilton, who took a pit-stop.

Two minutes after the Rocks’ second, they had a third as Pearce planted home a header from a precise right-wing cross.

There was a let-off for the Rocks with 13 minutes left as Stoner failed to gather a high, swirling cross under pressure and Harry Harding’s contact with the ball saw it hit the post and run along the line before being cleared by Wollers.

Dan Beck and Jack Walder were booked after a wrestling match that followed the pair’s challenge for a ball down the Rocks right.

Two-goal hero Pearce looked to have a slight limp as he was replaced by Doug Tuck with nine minutes left, getting a great reception from the home crowd and then being named man of the match for the second home game in a row.

There was more fisticuffs - this time in the centre circle - when Kempson was booked for a meaty challenge and Dunne went into the book for an over-the-top reaction to the tackle.

Wills obviously enjoyed his earlier goal and skipped into the box looking for a second in the 88th minute, doing everything right until he lofted a shot well over the bar.

The Rocks comfortably played out time to record a welcome three points – and leave Lewes still with work to do to ensure their survival.

Next up for Bognor it’s Wednesday’s Sussex Senior Cup semi-final with Hastings at Lancing.

Rocks: Stoner, Marzetti, Kempson, Crane, Warren, S Pearce, Beck, Wills, Thompson, Dodd, O Pearce. Subs: Stockford, Tuck, Wollers, Boyle.

Lewes: Thorp, Hamilton, Kay, Walder, Breach, Malins, Godfrey, Harding, Brinkhurst, Beckford, Dunne. Subs: Brewer, Crabb, Stubbings, Lewis, Ozga.

Ref: A Laver


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