Rocks make history with place in last 16 of FA Trophy

James Crane leads the celebrations after his stunning late winner / Picture by Tim Hale
James Crane leads the celebrations after his stunning late winner / Picture by Tim Hale

What a night at Nyewood Lane.

It started with a fleet of cars being parked on the pitch to defrost some frozen areas of grass - and ended with joyous scenes as a James Crane wonder-goal put the Rocks into the third round of the FA Trophy for the first time in their history.

They’ll go to National League South side Sutton in the last 16 knowing they are just three wins from a day out at Wembley.

The Rocks overcame National League side Altrincham - one of the most famous names in non-league - 2-1 at a freezing Nyewood Lane with a superb team performance.

There was no change to the starting line-up with Alfie Rutherford again getting a start, but the subs’ bench was bolstered by the return of Daryl Wollers and Lewis Boughton.

Michael Rankine was among the starting XI for the Robins, who had reached the second round only three days ago in a replay at Leamington that had been much postponed.

Cars were parked on the pitch an hour before kick-off to heat the main-stand side of the surface and get rid of the frost had plagued the shadowed area in minus degree temperatures, and the referee agreed that the game would go ahead.

Straight from kick off you could see it would be a tough game for the hosts as Craig Robson had to clear from a swift move down the left, which ended in Josh Ginnelly’s cross.

Ollie Pearce’s cross from the right found Stuart Green in the box but his shot on the volley spun over the bar.

Dan Beck and Pearce teed up Jason Prior near the back post but the striker’s header flew high and wide.

Jordan Sinnott’s long throw almost paid off for the visitors but Damian Reeves’ glanced header was stopped by Grant Smith.

Altrincham looked uneasy at times at the back but at the other end, they should have done better when Ryan Crowther’s driven pass into the box found Reeves - but his instant shot was blocked.

Rutherford was causing all sorts of problems for the Altrincham defence, and turning his man, he almost broke through on 28 minutes but was closed down.

Pearce’s cross was just too much for Rutherford, while Altrincham would have been disappointed not to score on 34 minutes when Ginnelly’s cross found Rankine, whose shot was high and wide.

Prior’s pass following a throw-in saw Crane try his luck from long distance on the left. His low strike was hit sweetly but Tim Deasy in the visiting goal was in the right position to save it.

Smith had to push the ball over the bar after Crowther’s high hanging cross dipped below his crossbar on 38 minutes.

Pearce’s determination enabled Prior to let fly with a powerful effort on the edge of the area, which hit the side netting.

HT 0-0

Numerous crosses by Bognor were cleared out but on 51 minutes Pearce did force Deasy into stopping one whipped effort.

The Robins rarely threatened but Crowther struck one over the bar from around 25 yards.

On the slippery surface, Josh O’Keefe received a yellow card for a late challenge on Pearce.

Bognor could have scored on 65 minutes when another Pearce cross fell to the feet of Prior, but somehow the visiting defence cleared the danger.

Smith was holding his own in the Bognor goal, gathering a cross as Altrincham tried to respond.

The visitors brought on Dylan Mottley Henry and George Bowerman on for Ginnelly and Reeves.

Pearce’s free kick on the left was cleared and Rutherford’s attempt at teeing up Prior was scuppered.

Rutherford received a booking for a late tackle on Crowther on 73 minutes on the halfway line.

Bognor deservedly took the lead on 76 minutes. Pearce’s pinpoint cross picked out Robson, who rose above his defender to nod a superbly-placed header into the bottom corner.

Sam Heathcote went into the book for a rather rash challenge moments later.

Crowther’s cross was well gathered by Smith but the visitors equalised on 81 minutes. A simple ball through the middle and over the defence saw James Lawrie scoop the ball over Smith and into the net.

But Bognor were determined not to travel to Manchester for a replay and on 85 minutes Nyewood Lane erupted.

Full-back Crane made his way into the middle of the Altrincham half before firing a shot from more than 30 yards. The ball seemed to hang in the air before curling on to the right post and into the net - bamboozling Deasy in the visiting goal.

It was surely up there with the best strikes ever seen at Nyewood Lane.

A nervy last few minutes ensued with four minutes of stoppage time added on. Right near the end, a glanced header from a long free-kick by the visitors was pushed away by Smith in the Bognor goal, but the linesman had already put his flag up for offside.

The final whistle went and Bognor had made history – the first time they had ever reached the third round of the FA Trophy – and the celebrations by the players, fans and management afterwards showed how much it meant to everyone.

Next up will be a visit to Sutton on Saturday, February 6 - a tie Bognor will go into with high hopes, following a performance of such high calibre at Nyewood Lane.

Attendance - 520

Rocks: Smith, Nilsen, Crane, Tuck, Field, Robson, Green (Charman 86), Beck, Prior (c), Pearce, Rutherford. Unused subs: El-Abd, Wollers, Warren, Boughton.


Get all the reaction to the FA Trophy win in the Bognor Observer - out on Thursday

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