Rocks hit six to secure play-off spot
Bognor hit Wingate and Finchley for six to make sure of a play-off spot - and boost their goal difference just in case leaders Hampton slip up in the race for the title.
Jason Prior’s hat-trick - taking his season’s tally to 42 - and an Alfie Rutherford double led the rout against a Wingate side who looked up against it from the off.
The three points for Bognor and the 6-0 victory leave them two points behind second-placed East Thurrock and six behind Hampton with a game in hand over both.
Only the champions go up automatically while the sides who finish second and third get home play-offs, the sides in fourth and fifth will be away in their semi-finals.
See manager Jamie Howell’s post-match thoughts in the video above
The Rocks began the night in third place knowing that a point would secure that place in the play-offs.
It was a strong Bognor line-up and Snorre Nilsen and Ollie Pearce were among those who had to be content with a place on the bench.
Wingate arrived with no chance of going up or down out of the Ryman premier this season and, unusually, had just two substitutes.
It took the Rocks less than two minutes to go close to an opener as Alex Parsons found space for two crosses that defenders managed to clear from under the noses of Bognor attackers. One was cleared for a corner from which Prior headed well over the bar.
Wingate were under heavy early pressure and a Parsons cross was taken off an attacker’s head by keeper Charlie Crowley - before the same man twice denied the lively Stu Green, first from a shot then a header.
Prior met a Dan Beck corner on the half-volley but hit it marginally too high and it shaved the top of the bar on its way over.
Rutherford put Bognor ahead with his first chance of the night, taking his time to slot a strong low shot past the keeper after a beautifully-timed through-ball from the back by Chad Field.
Sami El-Abd blasted over when Crowley failed to hold a shot but the offside flag was up.
Not surprisingly, the Rocks had been unable to keep up their blistering opening but they were still controlling things.
El-Abd couldn’t direct a bullet header on target from a Doug Tuck free-kick given for a foul on Prior 30 yards from goal.
It was 2-0 on 29 minutes as Prior smashed the ball into the roof of the net after a flowing move down the Rocks right ended with Green teeing him up inside the box.
Then it was Parsons’ turn to try his luck, seizing on a mistake by left-back Tommy Cummings to run through on Crowley only for the keeper to block him
Wingate did have more of the ball in the final ten minutes of the first half but they were not overly troubling the home defence or keeper Grant Smith.
Three minutes into the second half Prior’s clever pass with the outside of his boot was perfect for Parsons, and he took it round the advancing Crowley on the corner of the penalty box but his low sidefooted shot was cleared from near the post by a defender.
Parsons was soon bursting into the box again but he was crowded out just as he got ready to shoot.
It was 3-0 eight minutes into the half as Prior applied the final touch on an El-Abd shot that was hooked goalwards and was going in after a right-sided corner was flicked on to him.
The Rocks made their first change on 54 minutes as Ollie Pearce replaced Tuck.
A slip by Crowley almost let Pearce in but he recovered to concede a corner - but this latest spell of pressure ended in a fourth goal as Rutherford stooped to chest in Crane’s cross when El-Abd’s ball across the face of goal was only half-cleared.
Bognor were attacking at will and Rutherford was denied a third by a deflection following a left-footed effort from 15 yards - then Prior struck the bar with the keeper well-beaten from the scramble that followed the corner.
Connor Tighe replaced Rutherford on 66 minutes while four minutes later Wingate brought on Elliot Bailey for Jack Reed.
Snorre Nilsen came on for Beck and for a while, Wingate had the better of the possession. That led to a spot-kick given for what looked a fairly soft challenge by Parsons on Cummings on the edge of the box.
But the visitors’ night was rather summed up by Leon Fisher firing wide of Smith’s right-hand post.
Wingate’s second change saw Coskun Grantham replace Karl Stevenson.
Bognor should have had a fifth when Nilsen slipped Tighe away on the left, but his cross just eluded Pearce with the goal gaping.
Prior did find the fifth and completed his hat-trick seven minutes from time with a low finish under the keeper after a neat pass by Whyte.
Green was played in on goal a minute later and continued his excellent recent form in front of goal with a clinical finish.
Everyone wanted a goal and Prior nearly nabbed his fourth by beating two men in the area but curling a shot just too high.
The Rocks kept plugging away to the end knowing the goal difference could yet play a vital part in the final placings - even the title race - and Wingate must have been relieved to hear the final whistle after four added minutes.
Rocks: Smith, Whyte, Crane, Tuck, El-Abd, Field, Green, Beck, Prior, Rutherford, Parsons. Subs: Tighe, Nilsen, Wollers, Pearce, Joseph-Buadi.
W&F: Crowley, Goodman, Cummings, Rifat, Hutchings, Fisher, Stevenson, Laney, Read, Oliyide, Addai. Subs: Bailey, Grantham.
Ref: Simon Finnigan (Maidstone)
Att - 391
Report by STEVE BONE
Get all the latest from Nyewood Lane in the Bognor Observer, out on Thursday
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