Rocks heroes reach last eight of the FA Trophy

The Rocks players celebrate Jason Prior's opener / Picture by Tim Hale
The Rocks players celebrate Jason Prior's opener / Picture by Tim Hale

THEY’VE done it again - the Rocks’ FA Trophy heroics show no sign of ending.

For the sixth time this season they have beaten a team from a higher league in a knockout competition.

And this time, it’s taken them to the quarter-finals of the Trophy. Just two games from Wembley, if you don’t mind.

As in the first game at Sutton, they didn’t get lucky and sneak a result. They got it on merit.

At Gander Green Lane they had deserved the draw - here they deserved the win.

After Jason Prior slotted home the opening goal following great work by Doug Tuck, Sutton rather took the wind out of their sails with a controversial equaliser from the spot.

But as the game went on there was very little to choose between the sides - and the longer it went on, the stronger Bognor got.

The crucial moment came a minute before the end of the first period of extra time. Sub Ollie Pearce sent over a cross - the latest of many he had supplied since coming on - and as Prior tried to get his head on it, defender Dean Beckwith did it for him and crashed it past keeper Ross Worner.

Jubilant scenes at the end saw the management and players do a lap of honour to take the plaudits of the crowd - a crowd who will be back in even greater numbers on February 27 when the Rocks host Torquay or Macclesfield in the last eight.

The Rocks made two changes from the side who started in the first game - Alfie Rutherford and Calvin Davies coming in for Pearce and injured Harvey Whyte.

Sutton showed four changes, with their top scorer Dan Fitchett among those coming into the team.

The visitors were first to threaten as a long cross from the left looked just right for Fitchett, but Sami El-Abd flicked it away for a corner.

Bognor responded with an Alex Parsons cross from the right that the keeper palmed almost into the path of Doug Tuck, but a defender blocked.

Then Davies - making his first Rocks start after his arrival on loan from the Pompey academy - cleared off the line after a quick fball into the box almost caught out the hosts.

Dan Beck whipped a cross in towards Rutherford on the penalty spot but he was beaten to it by a defender.

From nowhere, Bognor took the lead. Rutherford and Tuck seemed outnumbered when they led a Rocks break but eventually Tuck swung the ball out to Parsons on the right.

His cross looked too long but Tuck picked it up beyond the far post and his cross came back off the angle of post and bar to be slotted in by the perfectly-placed Prior.

Davies was seeing plenty of the ball and one cross into the heart of the area was an awkward take for keeper Ross Worner as Prior lurked.

Sutton were level on 28 minutes with a very soft penalty. A tackle by Davies right on the edge of the area looked clean but the ref gave what the crowd first thought was a free-kick but was in fact a spot-kick.

Stuart Fleetwood sent Grant Smith the wrong way after plenty of protests from the Rocks players and from the management on the sidelines.

Sutton made a claim for an even softer penalty which the referee was not having, then Wishart was booked for halting a Rocks attack on halfway.

It was still a fairly even contest as half-time approached.

Bognor’s best chance to regain the lead came when Parsons fizzed a cross into the box that the keeper couldn’t hold and then Nilsen tried an overhead kick from the follow-up that was saved.

Parsons continued to be a thorn in Sutton’s side as he played in Rutherford, but the striker took a touch too many and the chance was gone.

For Sutton, Wishart tested Smith with a long-range shot that skidded through.

HT 1-1

The Rocks began the second half on the front foot and Prior’s shot brought a sharp save out of Worner. Then Rutherford almost got on the end of a Parsons cross as the Rocks pinned Sutton back.

Wishart twisted and turned in the Bognor box and beat Smith with a rasper that came back off the post. Then another Sutton attack had Smith at sixes and sevens but there was no visiting player to finish it off.

Fitchett was booked for hauling down Parsons in full flight before a Rocks change saw Rutherford replaced by Pearce.

Pearce soon had a half-chance, glancing a header inchdes wide from a Davies cross. Then Pearce set the busy Parsons away on another run down the right and his square ball saw Prior take a touch but have his shot blocked.

The right side was Bognor’s best outlet but neither side were able to keep hold of the ball for a sustained period.

Bedsente Gomis tried to make space for a shot in the D on 73 minutes but Bognor blocked him en masse.

Ross Stearn replaced Nicky Bailey with 16 minutes to go for United.

Pearce was getting some rough treatment from Sutton and wasn’t always getting the free-kicks the home crowd thought they should.

Sutton brought on Craig Eastmond for Dundas on 78 minutes.

The final minutes were a similar story to Saturday’s in that all the pressure was coming from the Rocks. Cross after cross, corner after corner came in but Sutton managed to clear everything.

Pearce was just wide with a lob after a corner was half cleared to him and Prior and Green were both close with goalbound shots. It was all Bognor but the winner wouldn’t come.

Gary Charman replaced Parsons in stoppage time.

FT 1-1

The tiring players and cold fans probably wished it had been settled before extra-time but there was very little to choose between the sides.

Sub Eastmond curled an effort just over from 20 yards at the end of a short spell of Sutton pressure. The same player was even closer from further out a couple of minutes later.

But just as the first half of extra-time neared its end, Nyewood Lane erupted when Pearce swung in another quality looking for Prior’s head and defender Dean Beckwith crashed a header past his own keeper and in.

The fans went wild - and did so again a minute later when the end of the first period was signalled.

At the start of the second period, Green darted on to Prior’s square pass and went to ground - with the home fans expecting a free-kick on the edge of the box the referee booked Green for diving, to his disbelief.

The rest of the period inevitably saw Sutton throw everything at the Rocks, but they rarely got past the white and green defence, and when they did, Smith stood firm.

As the minutes ticked down Bognor players cleverly used up time with possession, taking the ball into the corners, and only a minute was added on before the whistle signalled the start of the party.

Another great night - another night Rocks fans won’t forget in a hurry. Bring on the last eight.

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

Sutton: Worner, Downer, Wishart, Beckwith, Cooper, Collins, Bailey, Gomis, Dundas, Fitchett, Fleetwood. Subs: Stearn, Dillon, Doswell, Munro, Eastmond.


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