REPORT and PIC SPECIAL - Rocks end with defeat - as Dartford are denied the title
Bognor battled away to push title hopefuls Dartford all the way - but they ended up 2-1 losers on a day when the club said an emotional farewell to coach Darin Killpartrick.
Dartford arrived at Nyewood Lane needing to better Havant's result or score three more goals than them in victory to land the National South title - and at one stage it looked like they might do it.The Darts led late on as Havant were being held 2-2 by Concord - before the Rocks got one back to make Dartord sweat and then Havant got a late winner, leaving Dartford second and in the play-offs.As for Bognor, they were left to say their goodbyes to Dabba as he left after 15 years as coach and 18 years' service to the club in total, with many fans staying behind to wish him well as he did a lap of the pitch with his family.It was a big occasion for Dartford if not for the already-relegated Rocks - the visitors needing to better Havant's score to pip them to the National South title. And plenty of fans made the journey to Nyewood Lane, swelling the crowd to 1,017.In a lively start by Bognor, Ollie Pearce played Justin Amaluzor in on goal but it was almost as if he had too long to think about it as he waited for the keeper to come out and poked a shot wide.Dartford made a couple of dangerous forays into the Rocks area but for the most part, the opening exchanges saw Bognor on the attack. A corner was half-cleared to Calvin Davies, who cut inside and fired a shot only just wide of Berti Schotterl's right-hand post.A Dartford corner on 16 minutes was headed only just high and wide by a home defender's head while the follow-up corner was dealt with.The Darts looked a little nervous, perhaps the thought of how many goals they needed getting to them. Another Bognor attack ended with Amaluzor's ball to the far post just too strong for Ollie Pearce.Ryan Hayes' cross was right on the head of Elliot Bradbrook - he directed it well but it was too close to Dan Lincoln.Bognor manager Jack Pearce was watching from the main stand and could be heard bemoaning his side's lack of quality whenever they got to the final third.Just after the half hour, Amaluzor did well down the left and squared a ball into ther box for Tommy Scutt to shoot - but he couldn't keep his effort down.Bognor were close to the opener from a Pearce corner. It was flicked on by Keaton Wood and both Harvery Whyte and Jimmy Muitt were close to nodding it in.Dartford were close to going ahead - as they needed to be with Havant by this stage 2-0 up - when Bradbrook directed a header goalwards from a corner, but Lincoln got down superbly to keep it out.HT 0-0There was a fairly serene start to the second half with Dartford not showing the intensity you'd expect from a team still with hopes of the championship.The first decent opening of the second half fell four minutes in to Muitt, whose low shot looked goalbound until a defender got in the way. Muitt hurt himself in the process of shooting and needed treatment.The Darts finally got forward for a chance of note as Mark Onyemah curled one towards the top corner with the outside of his left boot but it was off-target.With news coming through that Concord had pulled one back at Havant to make it 2-1, the game suddenly opened up - Dartford injecting a new level into their game and Bognor looking dangerous on the break, Pearce racing into the area but seeing his low ball across the goalmouth cut out.Lincoln made a top-class save to keep out Danny Mills' header and Andy Pugh couldn't put away the follow-up.Dartford made a change with Pugh coming off for Tom Murphy and on 60 minutes Mills connected with another cross and this time his header, from almost on the goal-line, couldn't be kept out by Lincoln.Sub Murphy was almost on the scoresheet with a couple of minutes of coming on, sending in a well-hit right-footed shot from 20 yards that Lincoln had to tip over. When the corner was cleared, a long-range shot was deflected behind.Whyte got forward to volley a nice ball across the box that Pearce would have met but for a defender's intervention. Then Pearce did get the ball in a good position after good work by Scutt, but shot too close to Schotterl.Gary Charman replaced Scutt with 20 minutes, the young midfielder getting a nice reception from the crowd. He was soon in among the action - first cutting out a dangrerous cross, then getting forward for a header that was too high. Ben Swallow replaced Amaluzor on 78 minutes.Dartford effectively wrapped up the win with 13 minutes left as Ronnie Vint shot low and hard into the corner of the net from the D. And they should have made it 3-0 a minute later when Alfie Pavey cut out a loose pass at the back by Charman but hurried his shot and it flew high over the bar.Dartford brought on Alex Brown for Lee Noble and Bognor's final change saw Ibra Sekajja replace Gilot.On 85 minutes Bognor pulled a goal back that their persistence deserved. Muitt was fouled in the box and Pearce sent the keeper the wrong way from the spot to set up an interesting finish.Nathan Collier came on for Hayes in the Darts' final change.The atmosphere was dominated by what was happening at Havant. For a few minutes the title was in Dartford's hands - they were ahead and Havant were being held 2-2. Then Havant scored a late winner to pour cold water on the Kent side's celebrations.Nevertheless Dartford held on and finish second to earn a home play-off semi-final, and Bognor ended with another defeat - but had at least given a top team a tough afternoon, something that despite the final league table, they can say they have done many times.Rocks: Lincoln, Whyte, Davies, Tuck, Block, Wood, Gilot, Scutt, Amaluzor, Pearce, Muitt. Subs - Swallow, Sekajja, Charman, Nelson, Boughton.Dartford: Schotterl, Harris, Onyemah, Bonner, Vint, Noble, Hayes, Bradbrook, Pavey, Pugh, Mills. Subs - Collier, Brown, Murphy, Ofori-Acheampong, Ibraham.Ref: David SpainGet all the latest from Nyewood Lane in the Observer, out on Thursday