Rocks Review: Rocks 0 AFC Wimbledon 2

The Rocks made their League Two visitors work very hard for their victory in the hosts’ opening match of the pre-season campaign.

With much of last season’s promotion-winning squad making up the starting XI, a very youthful bench of substitutes were later given their chance and showed great promise, with supporters leaving the ground feeling there are some very encouraging signs for the future.

The match was arranged as part of the deal which took Rocks leading striker Jason Prior to Kingsmeadow in January. Prior was unable to take part as he is recovering from a nasty leg break suffered in April. But the 23-year-old was present and received the award for the Ryman League Golden Boot just before kick-off.

Despite the Dons hardly allowing their hosts a touch of the ball in the opening couple of minutes, Bognor soon settled into the game and enjoyed plenty of possession themselves and could even have grabbed the lead on a couple of occasions.

With regular keeper Craig Stoner unavailable, the match saw a rare appearance in goal for Tom Boyle. And he did not disappoint, with a commanding performance that impressed many, including his opposite number Seb Brown in the Wimbledon goal.

Young forward Dan Simmonds - who came in for the unavailable Terry Dodd - also earned the plaudits, putting in a good shift with his workmanlike showing in the first period.

A good-sized crowd - with many making the trip from South London - were enjoying the sunshine as well as the match, which saw the Dons enjoy plenty of possession in the early stages but without creating much in the way of chances.

At first, the Rocks did little to penetrate the strong Wimbledon rearguard, marshalled by the towering impressive Dutch defender Pim Balkestein. But they soon started to find their feet and their first opportunity fell to Ben Andrews in the 21st minute, who met Ben Johnson’s deep corner but flashed his header wide of the far post.

In the 34th minute, James Crane smashed the ball into the roof of the net from an angle but play had been brought back for an earlier infringement, which resulted in Ashley Robinson - who put in another fine performance - curling his free-kick wide from 25 yards.

Back came the Dons and they looked certain to open the scoring when Brendan Kiernan charged through on goal with just Boyle to beat. But just as he was about to pull the trigger, Ben Andrews arrived with an excellent challenge to deny the teenage winger and the ball was scrambled to safety.

Five minutes before the break, Wimbledon came even closer but this time,Tom Boyle came to the rescue with a superb double save to deny both Kiernan and Charlie Strutton.

With the visitors making a number of changes at the break, the Rocks themselves were to make a number of substitutions throughout the second half including Doug Tuck, John Symons and Ben Chick, with all the youngsters earning praise from Rocks officials and supporters alike.

Just past the hour mark, a through-ball from Robinson set up Johnson but from an angle, the winger drove his effort wide of the far post.

However in the 67th minute, the Dons took the lead when Dan Collier’s finely-placed looping header nestled into the corner, giving Boyle no chance.

In search of an equaliser, good link-up play between Robinson and Chick saw the latter fire over but the visitors sealed victory with virtually the last action of the game when Luke Moore finished emphatically from 12 yards, after receiving a pass from Collier on the right.

Although Jamie Howell was not present at Nyewood Lane, Darin Killpartrick and his coaching staff will no doubt have been pleased with the squad in their first friendly and against Football League opposition in preparation for their return to the Ryman Premier season, which kicks-off on August 18.

The Rocks are next in action on Thursday night at Havant & Waterlooville in a game brought forward 24 hours from its original date.

ROCKS: Boyle, Marzetti, Wollers, Crane, Axten, Andrews, Beck (c), Wills, Robinson, Simmonds, Johnson. Subs: Tuck, Kempson, Chick, Flanaghan, Kilner, Symons.

DONS: Brown, Yeboah, Balkestein, Racciny, Fenlon, Merrifield, S. Moore, Long, Kiernan, Strutton, Jolley. Subs: Midson, L. Moore, Collier, Bor, Harris, Cummings, Sweeney, Mitchel-King, Osano, Akoknici, Maz.

ROB GARFORTH