VIDEO: Relegated - Rocks' fate is sealed by familiar home defeat
The Rocks are relegated.
Their stay in National League South has ended with four games to spare after another poor defensive display resulted in a 3-2 home defeat to Hemel Hempstead - one that in many ways summed up a poor season. The result left them bottom of the league and unable to climb out of the bottom three by the end of the season - that despite a late rally that almost saw them snatch an unlikely point that would have prevented their fate being sealed just yet.
Although this outcome has been on the cards for a while, that doesn't make it any easier to take for players, management or staff at Nyewood Lane.Today's loss was especially disappointing after the midweek win over St Albans gave everyone a lift and raised hopes of at least a more upbeat ending to a tough campaign. Now the management have the tough job of trying to raise the players for the final four games with their fate sealed.
It will be a chance to blood a youngster or two - not that there are many of them to bring in - and it remains the case that a positive end to the season in terms of performances and results will at least send everyone off into the summer with some optimism for next season.
See video from the end of the game, above, when Rocks players and fans applauded each other
For the second home game in a row the Rocks went into action knowing they could be relegated by the final whistle. On Tuesday they saved themselves by beating St Albans 2-1 with a stirring display, but it was the same 'must win' approach needed against the week's second Hertfordshire visitors.
With an unchanged side and on a lovely pitch in warm sunshine, hopes were high that the Rocks could build on Tuesday's defeat - but they had a disastrous start when Sami El-Abd gifted possession to Hemel and Herscher Sanchez Watt ran through and beat Dan Lincoln for an easy opener.
The first Rocks attack of note came when Richard Gilot got the ball in from the right but Ben Swallow couldn't get a decent connection on the shot. Hemel were claiming a penalty on 12 minutes as James Kaloczi went down but it would have been a travesty had it been given. Fourteen minutes in it was 2-0 and again it was weak defending that cost the Rocks dear. They had two chances to clear a low ball in from the left but neither was taken and Watt pounced to take one touch and slam in his second.
It looked like Hemel would over-run the Rocks for a spell and Karl Oliyide forced Lincoln into a low save with a 25-yard shot. Ibra Sekajja ran at the Hemel defence and got past two men but his shot, although on target, was weakened by a deflection and was an easy take for Laurie Walker. Harvey Whyte gave the ball away on halfway and allowed Oliyide a run at goal but this ended with him skewing his shot well wide.
Bognor had a little spell when they threatened to make a fight of it. Sekajja and Swallow were doing their best to unlock the visiting defence, though one Swallow cross was too high for Justin Amaluzor.
A promising Rocks attack involving Calvin Davies running through the middle was halted when Amaluzor fouled his man off the ball. David Moyo raced away in a 1 v 2 race for Hemel and got the ball first but was eventually forced wide by El-Abd, while any Bognor foray forward ended in front of a red wall of defence. In first half stoppage time Watt had only Lincoln to beat from a tight angle but the keeper saved well. HT 0-2
The Rocks came out for the second half knowing a big improvement was needed but as in the first half it was Hemel who were first to threaten, with Moyo streaking away down the left and cutting in to fire a shot across Lincoln that the keeper got a hand on to concede a corner. The first substitution of the afternoon saw Lloyd Doyley replace Tom Hamblin for Hemel. Kaloczi was booked for a cynical hauling-down of Sekajja just after the hour as the striker raced away down the Rocks right.
A second Hemel change came on 65 minutes with Scott Shulton replacing the booked Kaloczi. Michael Cain was played in on goal but in lifting the ball over the advancing Lincoln, he got too much on it and it was over the bar. Bognor brought on Ollie Pearce and Jimmy Muitt for Sekajja and Swallow. But within seconds Hemel broke and Moyo ran on to a simple through ball from Oliyide to draw Lincoln and slot it past him. Game over?
A final Hemel change, with the match won, saw Watt replaced by Spencer McCall. Keaton Wood was lectured for going through the back of Cain before Tommy Block came on for Scutt. The home fans at least had a goal to cheer eight minutes from time when Muitt teed up Tuck for a low ball across goal that Pearce got to first to make it 3-1. The goal lifted the hosts and Muitt and Pearce started to make life difficult and as the game reached its 90th minute, Amaluzor bundled in from close range after Walker failed to hold a shot from the edge of the area.
That got the crowd thinking an unlikely point - which for now would have kept the Rocks up - was possible, but time ran out on the game - and on the Rocks as a National League South club.
Rocks: Lincoln,Whyte, Davies, Tuck, El-Abd, Wood, Scutt, Gilot, Amaluzor, Sekajja, Swallow. Subs: Charman, Block, Pearce, Muitt, Boughton.Hemel - Walker, Howe, Connolly, Parkes, Ward, Hamblin, Kaloczi, Cain, Moyo, Watt, Oliyide. Subs- Shulton, Hoskins, McCall, Doyley, Boness.Ref: Lloyd Wood
Get all the Rocks latest in the Bognor Observer - out on Thursday