Rocks Review: Eastbourne Town 1 Rocks 0

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The Rocks had plenty of the play at Eastbourne Town - but none of the killer instinct that has served them so well this season - as they slipped to only their third league defeat of the season.

For the second campaign in a row, Town sent their Sussex rivals spinning to a rare reverse. The hosts nabbed a goal through Danny Curd against the run of play in the first half then defended stoutly to earn the win.

It means the Rocks are still top but are now level on points with Dulwich Hamlet, who drew with Walton & Hersham, and just a point ahead of Whitehawk, who have played the same number of games as the men from Nyewood Lane.

There was another selection blow for Jamie Howell and Darin Killpartrick before the start when illness ruled Ben Andrews out of the starting line-up. Callum Sheriff was drafted in to partner Stuart Axten in defence.

On a bumpy surface the Rocks found it hard to play their normal passing game at times but enjoyed most of the possession.

Just two minutes had passed when Harvey Whyte headed wide from seven yards after a nice move started by Bwn Johnson.

Craig Stoner got down superbly to deny Town’s Matthew Percival from point-blank range before the Rocks got back to their attacking ways.

Ashley Robinson spurned two good chances against one of his former clubs - first he crossed for James Crane, who missed from an acute angle, when he’d have done better to shoot; then he hit a shot just too high and it skimmed the top of the bar.

Johnson flicked a Crane cross over the keeper and the crossbar before Eastbourne took the lead.

A long ball out from the back led to an aerial challenge between Curd and Axten on halfway. The ball ricocheted and fell kindly for Curd, who outpace Axten and Jon Marzetti and slotted calmly past Stoner.

An excellent Rocks following, who made up around two-thirds of the crowd of 264, were in good voice and gave the team plenty of encouyragement as they tried to hit back after the goal.

Whyte was only just wide with an effort after a Johnson set-up and after a series of corners just before half-time, Eastbourne somehow managed to clear during an almighty scramble in the area, keeper Kieran Thorp clawing the ball away from under the bar at one stage.

The second half followed a similar pattern but despite the Rocks having most of the play, they perhaps didn’t test the keeper as much as they should have done.

Sonny Cobbs replaced Marzetti on the hour, coming into the midfield and allowing Crane to drop back to right-back.

Whyte, Kane Wills, Robinson and Johnson were all guilty of taking an extra touch when a shot at goal might have paid off.

Eastbourne’s best chance came when ex-Bognor player Scott Kirkwood sprinted clear, but Stoner did well to smother the ball.

Late Rocks pressure brought another chance for Whyte, but after being put through by Johnson, his rising shot was a tad too high.

It’s the Rocks’ first league defeat since January 2 and they will know there’s no room for further slip-ups with Whitehawk and Dulwich right on their tails.

Next up it’s another tricky-looking away game - at Chipstead on Saturday.

ROCKS: Stoner, Marzetti (Cobbs), Wollers, Crane, Axten, Sheriff, Whyte, Wills, Robinson, Dodd (Thomson), Johnson. Unused subs: Andrews, Killpartrick, Boyle.

SIMON COOK