ROCKS REVIEW: Met Police 1 Rocks 1

IT WAS honours even in a 1-1 draw between the top two in Ryman one south’s high-fliers.

Jason Prior scored his 26th goal of the campaign to give the Rocks the interval lead but the Met secured a point with an equaliser midway through the second half.

It leaves Jamie Howell and Darin Killpartrick’s side a point behind the Police at the top but with an extra game to play - and that extra game comes when fourth-placed Leatherhead visit Nyewood Lane on Tuesday.

Bognor started this highly-anticipated encounter at Imber Court without injured trio James Fraser, Dan Beck and Perry Ryan so Conor Wilkins, signed from Eastbourne Town, returned to the line-up having played for the Rocks in a few games last year. The two temporary recruits from Brighton did not feature.

In front a of a massive green and white support, only 25 seconds had passed before the Rocks had conceded a corner. Tyron Smith took it and Billy Manners headed towards goal but Craig Stoner managed to push the ball out of the goalmouth. But the ball was still in the box, and it fell to James Field, who smashed a shot at goal only to be denied again by Stoner. The keeper then tipped a third shot over the bar.

In a good move for the Rocks, Kane Wills chipped the ball towards Luke Nightingale, but the linesman had his flag up for an infringement on keeper Mo Maan before Prior put the ball in the net.

Ben Johnson won the ball cheaply off Tyron Smith, but got closed out by two defenders, when Prior was available.

Skipper Michael Birminghsm won the ball and fed Johnson. The winger crossed for Prior but the striker skewed his shot well wide.

Wills had a long distance shot blocked, then Johnson followed up with another attempt which flew over the bar.

Right-back Jon Marzetti was tripped on the right flank and a free kick was awarded. Johnson’s swirling ball into the area was gathered by Maan.

In a comical incident, Nightingale chased down a ball to the corner flag. The ball bounced off the flag and off a defender trying to shield the ball, to give Rocks a corner. But Johnson’s kick was halted by an offside.

Nightingale and Manners went up to try to win the ball on the heavily-churned surface. They clashed and Manners went down and required treatment. Most felt it was a 50/50 challenge.

On occasions, Bognor did look shaky in defence. Craig Watkins nodded down a loose ball to Eddie Smith outside the box but he hit his shot straight at Stoner.

A lengthy stoppage occurred on 25 minutes when Manners went down near the goalline after an attempt to block Prior after a cross.

The Rocks gave a needless free kick away just outside the D on 29 minutes. But Tyron Smith’s shot was blocked by the wall.

Prior’s cross to James Crane ended with the defender fluffing his header.

The Rocks took the lead in the 35th minute. Kane Wills lofted the ball forward from the halfway line and after a defender failed to get it back to the keeper, Prior was there to neatly flick the ball over the out-rushing Maan from just inside the area.

Tyron Smith immediately flashed a free kick across goal but no other player could get there to finish it.

James Field got his boot well under a shot from a tight angle and from a long way out. But it was a shot a rugby player would have been proud of.

With seconds left of the first half, Crane rounded Steve Noakes but couldn’t keep the ball in. In his frustration the full-back kicked the ball at the flag, leading to it flying out of the turf.

HT 0-1

Within the first minute of the second period, Stuart Axten went down under a challenge by substitute Chris O’Flaherty. Though after appearing to hurt his face, he soon returned to action.

Met Police had a good spell and Noakes threw the ball to Luke Hickie on the right. The winger crossed on the volley but Stoner rose well to palm clear.

O’Flaherty slid the ball wide with a low shot from inside the area.

Down the other end, Crane swung the ball in from the left but Nightingale couldn’t get any decent contact with his head.

In a worrying moment, Axten bounced an awkward pass back to Stoner which needed a desperate clearance.

The men in green and white looked comfortable going forward, and neat passing led to Johnson pinging a cross in for Prior at the back post. He had space and maybe more time than he thought, but skied his header over.

On the hour, Nightingale had an altercation with Tyron Smith as he won the ball off the midfielder. Smith appeared to shove Nightingale but no cards were brandished.

Johnson and Birmingham linked up well to split the defence and set up sub Matt Whitehead on the left. But the full-back smashed his attempt at a cross over the goal frame.

Tyron Smith swung in a corner from the left after Axten had to clear his lines. Stoner rose well again to punch clear.

Nightingale got the ball in the Met’s half but was pulled back by a defender outside the box. Birmingham saw his free-kick curl over the bar.

The Police’s equaliser came on 70 minutes. A mistake by Johnson in the middle of the field set Watkin on his way. The forward managed to cut the ball across the floor to O’Flaherty, who blasted towards goal. The shot beat the diving Stoner as Wills and Whitehead’s attempts to help came to no avail and Watkin was there to divert it in. Offside appeals by Stoner and the many Rocks fans fell on deaf ears.

Johnson had a chance but from the edge of the area he bounced his shot straight at Maan.

Skipping past Birmingham on the run, Tyron Smith went forward to flash a shot well wide.

O’Flaherty set Chris Bourne away down the left. But the left-back’s cross was poor.

Birmingham found space to pass forward to Nightingale. The unpredictable bounce outfoxed the defender and the ball fell kindly for him, but the veteran striker’s shot was poor.

Tyron Smith teed up O’Flaherty on the left but his cross swung over the bar.

Birmingham was shown the yellow card after he appeared to complain about something to the referee.

The hosts had a couple of late chances. After a defensive header into the box, the ball flew up awkwardly and the defence had to head clear for a corner as Stoner appeared hesitant.

In the dying seconds, a long throw by Noakes went over Whitehead and into the area but Carl Wilson-Denis slid his shot wide.

Tyron Smith hit a shot over the bar from the edge of the area.

The Rocks will be satisfied with the point, a fair return in the end. But they will be hoping for better against Leatherhead at Nyewood Lane on Tuesday(7.45pm).

ROCKS: Stoner, Marzetti (Whitehead 58), Crane, Wills, Axten, Bond, Wilkins (Royce 81), Birmingham, Prior, Nightingale, Johnson. Unused Subs: Maynard, Turner, Wood.