ROCKS REVIEW: Rocks 5 Fleet 0

Jason Prior rifles home his second on his way to a hat-trick versus Fleet   Picture by Ian Guppy
Jason Prior rifles home his second on his way to a hat-trick versus Fleet Picture by Ian Guppy

The Rocks closed the gap on the top three in Ryman one with an emphatic 5-0 win over Fleet in front of another bumper-sized crowd at Nyewood Lane.

Jason Prior’s hat-trick was backed by goals from Luke Nightingale and Dan Royce to put struggling Fleet to the sword.

It gives the Rocks four league wins out of four in 2011, and none of the three sides in front of them in the table won.

Met Police, the leaders, crashed to a surprise 3-0 defeat at Horsham YMCA while Whitehawk lost 2-1 at Faversham. Leatherhead could only draw 1-1 at home to Worthing.

Rocks stormed to a comprehensive victory after another hat-trick by Jason Prior and goals from Luke Nightingale and Dan Royce, which helped to put pressure on their promotion rivals who all dropped points.

With a few players on dual-registration deals, Rocks had four players on the bench. James Fraser was still out with his knee problem, but is expected to be fit next Saturday to play away to Whyteleafe.

Prior, Nightingale and Ben Johnson all returned after being rested in the county cup loss at Lewes.

Fleet Town, in unusual yellow and black-striped kits, were first to have a chance. Darren Wheeler had a shot from long distance and Craig Stoner managed to save it but could only spill the ball out. Luckily Stuart Axten was there to reach the ball before the onrushing Johnnie Dyer.

Dyer received a talking-to by the referee after bringing down Rocks captain Michael Birmingham.

Bognor took the lead as early as five minutes in. Nightingale threaded the ball for Prior, who beat the defence to blast home beyond the helpless Lyall Beazley.

There were shouts for a handball on 12 minutes after a Rocks corner, but the referee waved away the claims.

Moments later Nightingale got into space but put his low shot straight at the keeper.

Fleet replied with an attack on 19 minutes. Leigh Rumbold squared to Darren Campbell on the break, but the winger swerved his shot over the bar from the edge of the area.

Bognor went further ahead after some wonderful football on 20 minutes. Johnson foundJames Crane on the overlap down the left and drove the ball to the left-back, who surged into the box after Chad Coombes failed to clear. He put the ball across goal for Nightingale to tap in from close range.

For Fleet, Rumbold smashed well over from range down the other end while Jamie McClurg screwed his ambitious shot well wide as Fleet almost seemed hesitant to get into the box.

More half-chances followed. Paul Harkness swung in a cross from the left towards Dyer, but it flew over his head and away to safety.

But it was all the threes for Bognor as they scored their third on 33 minutes. A great move allowed Dan Beck to drive the ball down the line for Johnson. The tricky winger beat Chris Page to curl in for Prior, who slammed home on the volley with ease (as shown in the picture by Ian Guppy at the top of the report).

Stoner pulled off a good save, diving down to his right to stop a McClurg chance.

On 36 minutes Kane Wills was unlucky as he was blocked as he ran through on goal. The ball rolled away for a corner. Johnson’s kick from the left was headed out to Beck, who got his boot under it to send it well over the bar.

Things simply weren’t right for the visitors as Campbell sent in a low cross from the left but no-one could get on the end of it.

Stoner easily gathered a high free-kick from the halfway line by Lee Riddell. Fleet had failed to really trouble the goalkeeper throughout the half.

Dyer was booked when he slid in late on Crane inside the Rocks half.

HT 3-0

Bognor had the first real chance of the second half. Nightingale outpaced the defence to have a shot on goal but he slid the ball wide of the post.

Prior notched his hat-trick and Bognor’s fourth of the day on 53 minutes. He fired into the roof of the net from inside the box after the ball fell to him from a previous attempt.

It was Prior’s 21st of the season in all competitions and he has Leatherhead’s Greg Andrews in his sights in the race to be leading scorer in the division.

Then Prior squared to sub Dean Maynard, but a defender won the ball and clear for the visitors.

Substitute Mark Anderson for Fleet perhaps had other options when he curled the ball straight to Stoner from the left.

Just after the hour mark, Maynard crashed the ball against the post with a low shot. Under pressure from the defenders, he managed to control a bouncing ball in the area before his attempt.

Johnson fed Wills after some good pressure by the Rocks, but the midfielder’s attempt was blocked.

Anderson latched on to a long ball by Wheeler. But he volleyed wide with only Stoner to beat.

On 64 minutes, Fleet were awarded a penalty. Tim Bond pushed a player down in the area and the referee pointed straight to the spot.

Wheeler stepped up to hit the ball low and towards the bottom corner, but Stoner was equal to it diving low to his left. Crane dashed in to clear the rebound as Bognor fans applauded.

Wills was unlucky moments later when he drove a shot from distance narrowly wide shortly after Anderson belted over Stoner’s crossbar at the other end.

It was the end product which Fleet lacked and when Wheeler beat Jon Marzetti and Birmingham on the left to cross, the ball whizzed across the face of goal and away for a goal kick.

Campbell brought down Perry Ryan in the centre of the field and the referee gave the player a caution.

Wills gave away a free-kick just outside the area. Up stepped Wheeler whose shot beat the defensive wall and clipped the top of the bar before going over.

Again Anderson outwitted the defence on the left to chip in a dangerous cross, but no other player was there to put the ball in.

With around eight minutes left, Dan Royce was tripped by Ian Hendry and the defender received a yellow card. Johnson curled his free-kick just wide.

But the Rocks did get a fifth goal in the 89th minute. Royce simply ran into the box and, from a tight angle, scooped the ball in to end a great day at Nyewood Lane.

The crowd of 438 was another good one for the club - it’s noticeable how the average attendance is now around 100 higher than when they were two divisions higher in Conference South.

Rocks: Stoner (10), Ryan (8), Crane (9), Wills (8), Bond (7), Axten (7) (Marzetti), Beck (8), Birmingham (8) (Royce), Prior (10), Nightingale (9) (Maynard), Johnson (9). Unused Sub: Wood.

Report by Liam Goodley