Rocks Review: Hythe Town 2 Rocks 3

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The Rocks are one of four teams to have won their opening three Ryman one south games after a late own goal clinched a 3-2 win away to Kent League champions Hythe.

It puts the Rocks fourth with nine points from nine - with two of the sides above them with a perfect record are their Sussex rivals Whitehawk - who visit Nyewood Lane on Monday afternoon - and Worthing.

This was Bognor’s first-ever visit to Hythe Town’s Reachfields Stadium and it produced another three points, but a bruising encounter saw not only yet another last-minute winner but a number of injuries to the squad.

The Rocks travelled without Tim Bond (wedding commitments), Louie Castles (illness), Perry Ryan and Michael Birmingham and finished the game without Jason Prior and Jon Marzetti, who must both be doubtful for the clash with Whitehawk.

The home side started brightly and forced a corner within the first minute. The Rocks defence were under constant pressure in the first quarter of the game and were being constantly troubled by the home captain Dave Cook and the long throws of Aaron Lacy.

Against the run of play, Bognor took the lead on 21 minutes when James Fraser powered down the right and put over an excellent cross which was directed back by Ben Johnson to PRIOR, unmarked inside the six-yard box. His mis-hit shot totally deceived home keeper Kieron Mann who dived to his left as Prior’s effort trickled slowly over the line to the right.

The slightly fortunate nature of the goal appeared to lift Bognor, who controlled the game for the remainder of the half and continually carved through the home defence.

Just eight minutes after the opener, the score was doubled. James Crane started the move down the left and cut the ball inside to Johnson, who fed Fraser. His inch perfect through ball was collected by Terry DODD who slid the ball past the advancing keeper with great confidence.

Bognor looked likely to score again and a Crane header skimmed the bar from Kane Wills’ cross, just before Prior headed in, although this was disallowed thanks to a handball.

For the second half, Matt Whitehead was on for the unfortunate Jon Marzetti who had been the victim of a crunching tackle just before the break.

Again, Hythe began the half with great purpose and it was no surprise when they pulled one back through Cook ten minutes into the half. A corner was not effectively cleared and Cook pounced to force the ball home.

Fraser, who had an impressive game, almost restored the two-goal cushion, but just as it looked like Bognor had weathered the storm the home side equalised through substitute Brendan Cass. Austin outpaced the Rocks’ defence and put over a perfect ball for the unmarked Cass to pick his spot from 12 yards.

Hythe looked certain to go in front minutes later, but a perfectly-timed tackle from Crane prevented Cook from advancing with only Stoner to beat.

Prior went off in some pain following yet another aggressive home tackle and it looked as if Bognor would do well to survive. However, the visitors did well to wrest the game back from Hythe once again, and in the last ten minutes appeared the more likely to score.

With just four minutes to go Crane let fly from 30 yards, and his tremendous shot came crashing back off the bar with the keeper well beaten. Fraser, following up, just failed to put the rebound in.

As the referee signalled four minutes of added time, an excellent pass from Wills found Crane on the right. He advanced deep into the penalty area before smashing the ball home off the unfortunate Greg Smith to the delight of the hardy bunch of Rocks fans behind the goal.

ROCKS: Stoner, Marzetti (Whitehead 45), Crane, Fraser, Axten, Breach, Beck, Wills, Prior (Ide 75), Dodd (Nightingale 56), Johnson. Sub not used: Wollers.

* In the weekend’s other local football, Pagham’s good start to the Sussex League division-one campaign continued with a 2-1 home win over Lingfield. Selsey lost 3-1 at Crowborough.

In the John O’Hara Cup, Chichester City beat Shoreham 3-2 at Oaklands Park for their first win of the season.

Back in the league, Midhurst lost 3-0 at Seaford in division two, while in division three, Bosham are second after a fine 5-1 win at Haywards Heath.

Most of our local teams are in action again on Monday, with Selsey hosting Chichester in the Sussex League on Tuesday evening.

We’ll have a bank holiday round-up here on Monday evening, and you can catch up with all the action in the Observer on Thursday.

Report by Simon Cook and Steve Bone