Christmas comes three days early: Bognor's win at Worthing really is a present to fans

It was the most timely of wins - at the perfect venue. If you'd asked Rocks fans what was on their Christmas lists this year, a win at Woodside Road would surely have been top of many.

Sunday, 23rd December 2018, 11:59 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th January 2019, 10:47 am
Bognor celebrate Dan Smith's opener / Picture by Tommy McMillan

After a fine start to the season, Bognor have gone right off the boil in recent weeks, struggling for goals at one end and letting in too many at the other.

A run of three straight defeats, with Enfield and Dorking each winning by the odd goal at Nyewood Lane and Kingstonian putting four past them last week in South London, had threatened to make it a miserable Christmas for all at Nyewood Lane.

And next up was Worthing - probably not the sort of game many would have wanted as the team struggled for form. But sometimes, big tests are what's needed in challenging times - and sure enough Jack Pearce and Robbie Blake's team rose to the occasion to make derby day their own.

It was no classic - for much of the afternoon it was pretty obvious this was a game between two sides still searching for their best form having been short of it for several weeks. Worthing, like Bognor, have slipped down the table after a flying start.

But though Bognor were not at their best - something coach Blake was happy to admit afterwards - they had enough about them to inflict another home loss on Adam Hinshelwood's team.

The Rocks defended well, with Gary Charman a reassuring presence back in the centre and Ed Sanders doing well on his switch to right-back. And going forward they benefitted greatly from the arrival on loan the previous day of former Pompey and Havant youngster Theo Widdrington, who has been borrowed for a month from League One side Bristol Rovers.

Widdrington looks just the sort of man Bognor need in midfield, especially after the imminent departure of Tommy Block to Hibernian. A number of fans observed that it was no coincidence to see Widdrington's debut result in his partner in the engine room, Doug Tuck, having his best game of the season.

Bognor celebrate Mason Walsh's late strike that clinched the win / Picture by Tommy McMillan

And up front, when you have a Dan Smith in your side, you have a chance. The Pompey loanee scored his tenth goal of the season to put Bognor ahead and will continue to be a vital player if the Rocks are to carry on challenging at the right end of the table.

The management will be warning against anyone getting too carried away by one win - Bognor's first in the league for five weeks. Two more big Sussex derbies follow now - Lewes, who are third, come to Nyewood Lane on Boxing Day, then Bognor travel to struggling Whitehawk on New Year's Day.

In front of a crowd of 1,853, It was Bognor who made the brighter start, coming close on a couple of occasions inside the opening five minutes.

Tuck cleverly dummied Harvey Whyte's pull back, with Widdrington seeing his strike flash just wide from the edge of the area after two minutes.

Worthing remained under some early pressure and Smith's deflected effort was parried by Kleton Perntreou, although the goalkeeper gathered the loose ball.

The hosts offered very little going forward in the opening half-hour but did nearly take the lead on 27 minutes. Ex-Selsey player Joe Clarke's deflected shot fell kindly to the feet of ex-Rocks forward Ollie Pearce, only for his goalbound attempt from six yards to be superbly blocked by full-back Sanders.

Rocks were quick out of the traps after the restart, with keeper Perntreou keeping the scores level. The Albanian-born stopper superbly saved Widdrington's 25-yard thunderbolt, before keeping Brad Lethbridge's fierce drive out with his feet inside the opening five minutes after the break.

But Bognor did finally have the breakthrough on 53 minutes. Perntreou could only parry a Lethbridge attempt and Smith was on hand to slot home the rebound.

Worthing were so nearly level 25 minutes from time. Crane slipped in Reece Meekums but Dan Lincoln was equal to his effort. Substitute Callum Kealy poked the loose ball towards goal, only for it to be cleared off the line.

Rocks were threatening on the counter-attack. Perntreou was equal to Jimmy Muitt's drive, then Smith's attempt on the rebound flashed across the face of goal two minutes later.

Substitute Walsh then doubled Bognor's lead four minutes from time. Perntreou did brilliantly to keep out Widdrington's deflected drive but Walsh picked up the ball, cutting inside and curling into the far corner.

It was an afternoon the many noisy Rocks fans present won't forget in a hurry and while one swallow doesn't make a summer, this result foes a long way to banishing memories of recent struggles.

Rocks:Lincoln, Sanders, Tomlinson, Tuck, Field, Charman, Whyte, Widdrington, Smith, Muitt, Lethbridge Subs: Scutt, Wild, McCormick, Osborne, Walsh.

Next up for the Rocks it's a home game with Lewes on Boxing Day (3pm). Thry have next Saturday off but go to Whitehawk on New Year's Day, also 3pm. Get all the reports on this website over the festive season.