Moone shines to keep Rocks top of the pile
Charlie Moone's first goal for the Rocks was enough to secure three more points and keep them top of the Ryman premier division as they beat Leatherhead 1-0.
Leatherhead were another visiting side to perform much better than their lowly league position suggested they should - and they made Bognor work hard for the spoils. So it wasn't pretty, nor was it particularly entertaining. But it was a win and that has to be the most important thing at this stage of the season, especially when the Rocks lead the table by just one point from Lee Bradbury's Havant.
The Rocks began the afternoon top of the Ryman premier by just that one point, with Havant having cut the lead by three in the past week. That meant victory was vital against Leatherhead, managed by ex-Wigan, Hull and Fulham star Jimmy Bullard, who arrived at the Lane in 21st place. Dan Beck was back to skipper Bognor after missing last week's 2-2 draw at Needham Market through illness. Gary Charman, who had replaced him and been named MoM in Suffolk, had to be content with a place on the bench. Centre-half Chad Field was named player of the month for February before kick-off.
The Rocks' first threat came when a poor clearance from keeper Louis Wells gifted possession to Alex Parsons and his run at the defence earned the first corner of the afternoon. But Wells made up for his error by claiming it. Leatherhead's first chance fell to Nana Boakye-Yiadom but he hurried his shot from just inside the box and it was well wide of the far post.Beck brought the home fans to lift with a curling effort from 25 yards that only just drifted over Wells and wide on 12 minutes.
Neither side was managing to imposing themselves on the first half and the next serious bit of action for either keeper saw Dan Lincoln get down well to save a low drive from Kadell Daniels. Leatherhead defender Jerry Nnamani was shown the first yellow card of the day when he fouled Ollie Pearce as he tried to burst into the box on a run down the left. Pearce needed treatment after falling awkwardly.
Beck, this time from even longer range, tested Wells on 33 minutes and that seemed to perk up the Rocks as Pearce went on a surging run down the left and forced a defender into a sliding clearance with a low cross into the six-yard box. Paul Semakula was booked nine minutes before the break for hacking down Harvey Whyte as the Rocks advanced down the right. Pearce was proving the Rocks' brightest player and he found space in the box for a shot but was just off target.
Bognor pressurised Leatherhead into giving them possession just outside the box but when Moone tried to chip Wells, who was off his line, there was not enough height in his effort. Then Sami El-Abd was the unlikely player bursting away down the left wing, ending with a pass to Moone who cureled a lovely shot that was heading for the far corner only for Wells to pluck it out of the air. Almost immediately the Rocks won possession again and Doug Tuck slid a perfect pass through for Moone to run on and finish low past Wells to give the Rocks a 42nd-minute lead - his first goal for the club.
Now the Rocks had their tails up and Tuck ought to have done better from the D but shot well wide. El-Abd was booked for a rather wild tackle on Daniels 20 yards out, but the Rocks held on for an interval lead that their display in the final 15 minutes had deserved.
Field had picked up a slight hamstring problem in the first half and Charman was on in his place for the start of the second period. A quick Rocks break five minutes into the second half saw James Fraser run at the defence then release Parsons, whose low ball into the box was cleared for a corner just before Moone could make contact. A superb save by Lincoln denied Boakye-Yiadom an equaliser on 55 minutes after he controlled a low ball in from the right and turned his marker to shoot.
Daniells had space for a shot from just inside the corner of the box but it was wildly over the bar. The Rocks brought Jimmy Muitt on for Parsons on 62 minutes.
Leatherhead were doing plenty of attacking in the hunt for an equaliser and Boakye-Yiadom turned on the edge of the area and shot low but straight at Lincoln. The same player was booked a few minutes later after a late challenge in the centre circle. Daniels was lucky to escape a card for a late challenge on Muitt, before the final change for Bognor had James Crane coming on for Moone.A Rocks attack down the right led by Fraser looked promising on 77 minutes but he took too long to get his cross in and was blocked off. Then sub Muitt sent a rocket of a shot crashing against the bar, with Fraser and Crane just unable to seize on the ball as it dropped back in the six-yard box.
Leatherhead brought on Mohammed Sagaf for Tyron Smith with ten minutes left. D'Sean Theobalds got forward for a shot on 82 minutes but it was a comfortable take for Lincoln. Another Tanners change came on 84 minutes, Salim Nassor replacing Daniels. They then made their final change with Courtney Homans replacing Semakula.
Whyte picked up an 89th-minute booking, seemingly for kicking the ball away. Leatherhead kept plugging away and Lincoln had to stretch to palm away a curling shot from Theobalds two minutes into the three added on - but that was the visitors' last attempt and the final whistle soon followed to secure the three points and maintain top spot. Havant's 4-1 win at Enfield keeps them a point behind Bognor but the Rocks are now six points clear of third-placed Needham - and 17 clear of sixth-placed Leiston, who they visit in their next game in a week's time.
Rocks: Lincoln, Whyte, Barnett, Tuck, El-Abd, Field, Fraser, Beck, Moone, Pearce, Parsons. Subs- Charman, Crane, Muitt, Davies, Wild.Leatherhead: Wells, Ambroisine, Murphy, Semakula, Nnamani, Theobalds, Smith, Boakye-Yiadom, Carr, Daniels. Subs: Homans, Sagaf, Davies, Nassor, Bradley. Ref - Steven Hughes.Ref: Steven Hughes. Att - 501.
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