Rocks go second - and Ryman title race goes to last day
Bognor moved second in the table and ensured the Ryman premier title race would go to the final day as they beat a hard-working relegated Brentwood side 3-1 at Nyewood Lane.
Jason Prior, Connor Tighe and Snorre Nilsen were on target on a night when the Rocks were not at their best but still got the job done - while perhaps not quite gaining the goal difference they might have liked.
The Rocks will host Hendon on Saturday needing to win and score a few goals - and hope Hampton slip up at home to Enfield.
It’s a long shot but at least Bognor know if it is the play-offs that await them they will be at home in the semi-finals and, if they finish second, they would also be at home in the final should they reach it.
Dan Beck earned an early lecture from ref Dele Sotimirin for a challenge on Marcus Milner.
Brentwood started with quite a lively approach and had Bognor on the back foot early on, Mitch Hahn rifling a powerful shot over the bar.
Alfie Rutherford was first to try his luck for the Rocks but his 30-yard left-footed effort was always drifting high and wide.
Bognor followed that with a cross from Harvey Whyte that Stuart Green met on the volley and sent only narrowly wide.
An Alex Parsons cross was just tipped away from Rutherford’s head by keeper Ollie Bowles.
It didn’t take the Rocks long to go ahead and it was top scorer Prior with his 43rd goal of the season, in his 61st game of the campaign, who broke the deadlock. A long ball from the back set him away and he outmuscled a defender, controlled it, took another touch to wrongfoot the keeper then fired low into the net, with just 12 minutes gone.
Immediately Alex Teniola should have levelled when a cross from the right found him unmarked near the penalty spot. Grant Smith was fixed to the line but thankfully for the Rocks, the shot went the wrong side of the post.
Prior was close to his and Bognor’s second with a header from a floated Beck free-kick but Bowles leapt athletically to palm it over.
Brentwood wanted a penalty when Teniola went to ground during a panicky scramble in the Rocks box. Then Smith was called upon to push away a Shad Ngandu shot as the Essex visitors continued to threaten an equaliser.
Rutherford was close with a lob that took a deflection and beat the keeper but went just over.
Bognor were forced into a change as Alex Parsons came off for Tighe. He didn’t look to be badly hurt so the home fans will have been hoping it was just a precaution.
Rutherford chased an almost lost cause down the left and swung in an excellent cross that fell to Green, but he blazed over. Then Tighe crossed for Tuck but he hit it first-time and it was another one that was too high.
Prior should have been given a penalty for a push as a free-kick came into the area but the challenge went unpunished as Sami El-Abd headed the corner wide.
Rutherford looked the most likely to get a second for Bognor and sent a fierce drive just wide from a tight angle outside the box.
Prior had the final first-half effort, turning 20 yards out and shooting - but it was comfortable for Bowles.
Bognor began the second half by putting Brentwood under heavy pressure and it paid off. One close-range shot was blocked but when the ball ran loose, Tighe was well-placed to bend a left-footed shot into the bottom corner.
Brentwood looked rattled for a while but Bognor couldn’t force in a quick third despite a couple of close calls.
Brentwood survived another scare when Prior connected with Whyte’s cut-back but it was cleared. Then Whyte headed a long ball towards Priorr in the six-yard box but it didn’t reach him.
Nilsen replaced Green in the Rocks’ second change on 55 minutes.
James Crane’s low shot was destined for the bottom corner after Prior’s pass to him on the edge of the box but Bowles got down well to hold it.
The Rocks seemed to be rushing things when in good positions, perhaps aware they needed more goals. For their part, Brentwood were struggling to make the same impression they had in the first half.
Tighe flashed a fierce shot across the face of goal before Ollie Pearce replaced Rutherford with 22 minutes to go.
A nice right-to-left build-up ended with the ball at Prior’s feet but he didn’t catch it right and it was well over.
Tighe hammered another shot goalwards but it was straight at Bowles.
El-Abd missed a great chance for the third when he failed to get much power on a shot from 12 yards and the keeper claimed it with comfort.
Another good opportunity fell to Tuck 15 yards from goal and central but like some of his team-mates he didn’t have his shooting boots on and it was too high.
Brentwood replaced Petrit Elbi with Junior Ibenwicki.
Prior’s surging run set up Tighe for a potshot 20 yards out but there was no power in it.
Bognor knew they ideally needed more goals and Beck was next to chance his arm but his daisycutter was well wide.
Whyte was named MoM and responded by running two-thirds of the length of the field to create an opening for himself. His shot was heading wide but it fell to Tuck, whose low follow-up was well-saved. But then Tuck skied a shot from the corner.
Brentwood stunned Bognor by getting one back when Ryan O’Rawe sneaked in behind the defence to poke a long ball from the left past a flat-footed Smith.
It was a huge blow to the Rocks’ hopes of closing the goal-difference gap on Hampton in case top spot comes down to such a calculation.
The Rocks restored their two-goal advantage well into added time when Pearce took a quick free-kick for a disputed foul close to the byline. Prior’s header was blocked but sub Nilsen belted in the loose ball to give the Rocks a late lift and reduce the all-important goal difference gap.
Ngandu was booked as Brentwood’s players complained to the officials that the free-kick should never have been given.
Rocks: Smith, Whyte, Crane, Tuck, El-Abd, Field, Green, Beck, Prior, Rutherford, Parsons. Subs - Nilsen, Tighe, Pearce, Wollers, Charman.
Brentwood: Bowles, Milner, Freeman, Cross, O’Rawe, Hahn, Elbi, Witherspoon, Ngandu, Teniola, Bantick. Subs - Rees, Ibenwicki, Scannell.
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