Rocks Review: Rocks 2 Hastings 1 (Sussex Senior Cup semi-final)

The Rocks celebrate their semi-final win at Lancing  Exclusive picture by Tommy McMillan
The Rocks celebrate their semi-final win at Lancing Exclusive picture by Tommy McMillan

Battling Bognor can look forward to their second county cup final in four seasons after Dan Thompson’s double downed Hastings at snowy, sub-zero Lancing.

Thompson scored seven minutes after the start and 12 minutes from the end to put the Rocks through to a showdown with Brighton’s youngsters or East Preston which is scheduled to be played at Albion’s Amex Stadium.

It was no more than the Rocks deserved for a committed second-half display after a first half in which they had looked second best for long spells.

The match was played in the coldest conditions you could imagine for April. Snow was swirling around in an icy wind at kick-off but by the end of the evening the large number of travelling Rocks fans had been suitably warmed up by their team’s triumph.

Hastings were the first to have a strike on goal but Alassane N’Diaye’s curling shot from 25 yards was well over.

The Rocks took seven minutes to fashion their first chance - and it ended with a goal.

Terry Dodd turned his man in the centre circle and released Ollie Pearce down the left with Hastings wondering whether an offside flag

would go up. It didn’t and Pearce raced to the byline and played it across the face of goal, where, after a deflection off a defender, Thompson had the simple task of sliding it in.

Hastings almost managed an immediate response but N’Diaye’s shot was blocked.

The men from East Sussex were having plenty of the possession but Bognor seemed content - and comfortable - soaking up the pressure and trying to hit them with a quick break or two.

But Hastings were level when ex-Rock Zac Attwood glanced a header past Craig Stoner, meeting a cross from the right that came after the Rocks had lost possession in the opposition half.

That took the wind out of the Rocks’ sails and Hastings had the better of the remainder of the first half - even if there was little quality football on display from either side.

The Rocks’ play was hurried and whenever they got it to the front two, it soon bounced back downfield, while Hastings looked short of

confidence when a couple of decent shooting opportunities fell to N’Diaye and Attwood.

N’Diaye went into the book for a late challenge that left Dan Beck - playing as an emergency right-back - hobbling. Then another Pearce

raid down the left ended in a ball into Dodd that was just behind him and got caught up in his feet before keeper Daniel East gathered.

Jamie Crellin curled a shot only just high and wide from 20 yards with three minutes to go before the break as Hastings continued to look the most likely to get the next goal.

Whatever was said in the Rocks dressing room at half-time had the desired effect, for they looked a different team after the restart, taking the game to Hastings and not letting them have anything like the possession they enjoyed for the final half-hour of the first period.

Pearce was at the centre of any attack the Rocks could muster early in the second half.

Freddie Warren chipped a ball into the box for Crellin but his turn took the ball out for a goal kick.

A good chance for the Rocks came on 57 minutes as Kane Wills’ long pass was miskicked by a defender into Dodd’s path - he bore down on goal but East saved with his legs.

Yet another injury scare followed for the Rocks when Daryl Wollers went down after a collision. But he got up after a bit of attention.

A penalty shout by the Rocks for a handball in the area on 62 minutes went unanswered by the officials.

The best United could manage was a goalward header by N’Diaye but Stoner scooped it up easily.

Dodd and N’Diaye had remote sights of goal at either end but the Rocks regained the lead with 12 minutes left.

Wills drove forward and when his forward pass came off Dodd and a defender, it fell perfectly for Thompson, who found himself clear to run through, round East and smash the ball into an empty net from an angle.

It was a great goal by the teenager and was the third consecutive round of the competition he had scored in.

Sub Lewis Stockford was close to making it 3-1 while Beck was called upon to head away a dangerous free-kick in the biggest scare the Rocks suffered as they successfully played out time.

Five added-on minutes were not enough for Hastings to find another equaliser - despite keeper East going up for a corner - and the final whistle brought a friendly pitch invasion from some of the travelling Bognor army, who were keen to congratulate their heroes.

There’s no date yet for the final, with the prospect of Brighton reaching the Championship play-offs complicating plans to open up the Amex Stadium to the Sussex FA on a given day.

Rocks: Stoner, Tuck, Kempson, Crane, Warren, Wollers, Beck, Wills, Thompson, Dodd, O Pearce. Subs: Stockford, Cody, Killpartrick, Boyle.

Hastings: East, Cox, Richardson, Warren ,Ray, Judge, Ellis, Crellin, Dixon, Attwood, N’Diaye. Subs: Carey, Camara, Williams, Murphy.

STEVE BONE

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