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Rocks Review: Eastbourne Utd 3 Rocks 4 (Sussex Senior Cup)

The Rocks are through to the last eight of the Sussex Senior Cup after winning an at-times farcical game in the wind and rain at The Oval.

Two goals from Ashley-Paul Robinson and first Rocks goals for Dan Thompson and Jordan Clarke clinched it for the Rocks in a game which was so hit by high winds, one late goal kick by the home keeper blew back behind his own line for a Rocks corner.

There were so many chances it could have been 6-6 and the county league division-two hosts deserve credit for getting the game on and for the way they pushed their Ryman premier visitors all the way.

One worry for the Rocks was an injury to Ben Andrews which saw him helped off - and as he limped away from the ground after the game, the management must have beemn thinking about how they’d face Kingstonian on Saturday with only one fit senior centre-half.

Full-back Jon Marzetti, who filled in next to Stuart Axten after Andrews went off, could be a contender to play the same role again at the weekend.

Bognor were up against the howling gale in the first half and fell behind after only three minutes when a good cross by Mark Goodwin was headed in by Liam Bateup.

James Crane made a desperate bid to clear it off the line but the officials ruled it had crossed.

Bateup hit Nick Jordan’s bar as the Rocks looked rattled by their hosts’ quick start but gradually they settled and Clarke shot wide after a neat move involving Robinson and Doug Tuck.

Andrews was carried off after suffering a late challenge on 15 minutes but that didn’t seem to disrupt the Rocks too much after Daryl Wollers came on and filled in at full-back with Marzetti moving into the centre.

Robinson missed a golden chance on 17 minutes after Clarke produced some trickery down the wing while Tuck went close with a 25-yard effort.

At the other end the strong wind was causing havoc and led to several scrambles, but on the half-hour the Rocks levelled when Harvey Whyte - on as an early sub for Tuck - and Kane Wills combined to play in Robinson, who converted from 20 yards.

Sean Lee almost restored Eastbourne’s lead with a wind-assisted 30-yarder which was inches wide, and then Wills missed an absolute sitter - before United’s keeper cleared downfield for Baitup to slide home their second.

Within two minutes Thompson had opened his Rocks account to make it 2-2 when he controlled the ball on the edge of the area and lashed it home.

Only another two minutes had passed when Whyte beat three players and was hauled down in the box. Robinson stepped up for the spot-kick and with the wind against him took no chances and whacked it home instead of relying on his usual laid-back approach.

The Rocks ought to have had another penalty right on half-time but another upending of Whyte went unpunished.

The first good opportunity of the second half fell to Eastbourne’s Danny Simmonds but he missed with only Jordan to beat.

Then it was Robinson’s turn to conjure up a terrible miss after Wills put him in the clear.

He made up for it with a mesmersising run down the wing which ended with him reaching the byline and setting up Clarke for his first Rocks goal to give Jamie Howell’s team some daylight.

To their credit, Eastbourne didn’t give up and Simon Catt was unlucky to trip before having the chance to shoot after beating two players.

Lewis Stockford replaced Whyte and Eastbourne were rewarded for their persistence when Baitup got his third of the night from ten yards thanks to Steve Stracey’s pass.

Baitup might have equalised with his fourth goal after an Axten slip but blazed wide and at the other end Stockford missed an open goal.

Jamie Bunn for Eastbourne and Thompson for the Rocks were the last to waste great openings - Thompson not helped by the wind speeding up the ball’s journey to the byline after he’d rounded the keeper.

Almost the last action saw the Eastbourne keeper take a free-kick then watch as it sailed back past him and out for a Rocks corner - which, thankfully for him, came to nothing.

Eastbourne had shown enough to prove their win over Lewes in a previous round was no fluke but it’s the Rocks who go through and are now just two games away from their second county-cup final appearance in four seasons.

Rocks: Jordan, Marzetti, Tuck (Whyte (Stockford) ), Crane, Axten, Andrews (Wollers), Kempson, Wills, Thompson, Robinson, Clarke. Subs not used: Pearce, Boyle.

SIMON COOK

 

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