Rocks in seventh heaven after third 4-0 win in a week

The Rocks made it seven wins from nine - and moved to seventh in the Ryman premier table - after their third home 4-0 victory in seven days.

Cray Wanderers followed where Frome and Hampton & Richmond had gone before - ending up well beaten by a Bognor side for whom confidence is sky high.

Ben Johnson, Ollie Pearce, Dan Sackman and Harvey Whyte were the scorers and the game was over as a contest before the hour mark - although it could have been a different story had Cray not had a defender sent off for a last-man foul just before half-time.

The Rocks were out to continue a superb recent run which had seen them win six and draw two of their past eight games.

Cray came to Nyewood Lane in poor form and bottom place, not having won since August 13. But the Rocks would have been all too aware of last season’s visit, when they beat the Rocks 2-0 while on a similar run, which that time included a 9-0 defeat a week earlier.

The Rocks were without Craig Robson, with Sackman slotting into his place in the heart of defence. Whyte was back after a thigh problem kept him out of the win over Hampton & Richmond at the weekend.

The first effort at goal came from one of two ex-Rocks in the Cray line-up, winger Jordan Clark who had a lively but brief spell at the Lane last season. He chanced his arm from 35 yards and although he hit it cleanly, it sailed over Mark Zawadski’s bar.

On eight minutes, the Rocks beat the offside trap as Alex Malins played in Arron Hopkinson down the right. He took it to the byline but his driven cross was cut out at the near post for a corner. When that came in, Stuart Axten met it with a volley that went out of the ground by some distance.

The Rocks were looking lively and went ahead in the tenth minute. Whyte’s mazy run across the edge of the penalty box ended in a pass out to Hopkinson on the right, and when he cut on to his left foot and crossed, Godfrey headed back across goal and Johnson nodded it in.

Two minutes later, Pearce’s low cross was almost chested into his own goal by Cray captain Aaron Day.

It was one-way traffic and Pearce should have made it 2-0 but drew Andy Walker in a one on one only for the keeper to narrow the angle and block the shot.

Seventeen minutes had passed when Godfrey played in Hopkinson - who’d switched to the left - for another dangerous low cross that had to be hacked away at the near post.

Moments later, Hopkinson was fouled 22 yards out and Godfrey bent the free-kick only a couple of feet over the bar.

Jon Marzetti, playing at left-back instead of his usual right side, teased a nice pass into the area for Whyte to run on to but Walker got there first.

Cray came as close as they had got to a goal on 24 minutes when James Fray got away down the right and swung in a cross that Tommy Whitnell volleyed over at the near post.

The Cray management were getting a little agitated by their dugout and one outburst drew some ironic cheers from home fans in the main stand.

Cray were certainly coming more into the game after a shaky period in which they conceded and could have found themselves two or three down.

Axten’s diving header almost beat Walker as the defender got forward to meet a long ball into the six-yard box by Malins.

Jack Clark - the other ex-Bognor player in the Cray side - was inches off target with a curling 30-yard free-kick.

The game went a little flat as both sides struggled to find their groove but Hopkinson was one of the Rocks’ dangermen throughout the first half and he woke the crowd up by blasting a left-footed effort well over the bar on 36 minutes.

Hopkinson went closer on 39 minutes with what would have been goal of the season had it gone in. He volleyed across the goal and just beyond Walker’s far post after Malins’ long ball down the right was lobbed into space for the winger to run on to.

Johnson forced a leaping low save from Walker as he turned and shot when Cray failed to clear a corner four minutes from half-time.

There was a hold-up while Jordan Clark was treated for a knock after a heavy challenge on halfway.

Day sidefooted over from 12 yards when Jack Clark’s cross found him worryingly unmarked after a corner was half-cleared.

It should have been 2-0 on the verge of the interval but Johnson’s well-struck penalty was brilliantly palmed away by Walker, diving to his left, after Pearce was brought down by Gary Cook when he had only the keeper to beat.

Cook was sent off and could have no argument about that.

HT 1-0

Cray began the second half with a 4-4-1 formation, presumably looking to stay in the game before getting more adventurous as the game wore on. But their hopes of doing that took a major knock when Pearce ran on to Marzetti’s slick pass down the left and slotted low past Walker to double the lead.

Three minutes later, it was 3-0 as Axten flicked on a right-sided corner and Sackman powered home a header at the far post.

Not content with seemingly making the game safe, the Rocks got a third inside six minutes when they outnumbered the Cray defence in an attack and the ball eventually fell to Whyte, who teed up the ball on to his left foot and struck it low past the exposed Walker.

It was Whyte’s last act as Terry Dodd replaced the former Havant man, whose night’s work was completed very early.

Sub Dodd was soon almost in on the act himself, forcing a fingertip save from Walker with a fierce drive as he powered down the inside left channel.

Johnson was the second goalscorer to come off, with Scott Chamberlain making his first league appearance in his place since his recent return to the Lane.

It should have been five on the hour but Marzetti’s cross to Hopkinson at the far post saw the winger miscontrol it and then hit a high and wild shot once he had got the ball under control.

Cray decided it was time for a change and Jordan Clark and Whitnell were replaced by Tijani Eshilokun and Marcus Ekeh.

With the game won, there was a relatively quiet spell - but it was also a spell in which the Rocks were in total control.

The final change for Cray brought Joseph Ogunbiyi into the fray - in place of Fray.

The crowd of 415 were a little quiet because of the 15-minute goal drought, which was almost ended by Dodd’s little chip that was a fraction too high.

Dan Kempson came on for Tuck in the Rocks’ third substitution before Hopkinson’s one-two with Pearce left him with sight of goal but the keeper put it out for a corner. That was sent to the far post by Pearce and Axten’s header from ten yards was cleared by a defender.

Suddenly the Rocks looked more threatening again and Ike Robertson almost half-volleyed a Hopkinson free-kick into his own goal.

Ogunbiyi was booked for tugging Dodd’s shirt and the referee also showed yellow to Chris Saunders for dissent.

Cray’s night couldn’t get much worse but having used their three subs, they lost Saunders to injury with six minutes to go.

Pearce was named man of the match on a night when a number of Rocks players could lay claim to the prize.

The Rocks were still attacking and Godfrey and Pearce both had efforts on goal in one attack.

Hopkinson put over a low cross towards Godfrey but a defender got a leg to his shot to deflect it over for a corner.

Rocks: Zawadski, Malins, Marzetti, Tuck, Axten, Sackman, Hopkinson, Whyte, Godfrey, Johnson, Pearce. Subs: Dodd, Kempson, Chamberlain, Wills, Boyle.

Cray: Walker, Edgar, Jack Clark, Robertson, Day, Cook, Jordan Clark, Saunders, Stavinou, Whitnell, Fray. Subs: Amadou, Ogunbiyi, Eshilokun, Ekeh.

Ref: Michael Webb (Woking)


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