ROCKS REVIEW: Rocks 3 Chipstead 0

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The Rocks returned to the top of Ryman one south with a straightforward victory over Chipstead at sunny Nyewood Lane.

Jason Prior’s double took his league tally for the season to 25 while his strike partner Luke Nightingale scored one to move to 20 league goals for the campaign as the Rocks failed to find their usual fluency but still had enough to overcome their mediocre Surrey visitors.

They were looking to recover from last week’s 3-2 defeat at Leatherhead and return to top spot after being knocked off their perch by Met Police, who won in midweek.

Nightingale and Michael Birmingham passed late fitness tests but Dan Beck (knee) and Perry Ryan (wrist) were still missing and the Rocks were able to field only three subs.

It took seven minutes for either keeper to be called into action and Chipstead stopper Martin Grant held Prior’s header from just inside the box after Matt Whitehead’s high ball in.

After Craig Stoner got his first touch to launch another Rocks attack, Ben Johnson won a corner which Grant dropped, but a defender was on hand to clear.

A nice link-up between Johnson and Nightingale allowed the winger to try to put Prior in, but he wasn’t quite quick enough to run on to the ball on the edge of the box.

Whitehead’s cross after a run down the left on 20 minutes had to be headed behind for a corner as Prior made his way to the near post. But the kick came to nothing.

Two minutes later Prior appeared to be through on goal but he was crowded out before getting into the area.

The Rocks were winning a succession of corners but were unable to turn them into threats on Grant’s goal.

A Chipstead breakaway down the left led to Whitehead having to clear a cross-shot off the line on 27 minutes.

James Crane and Nightingale set up Matt Wood, making a rare start in place of Beck, for half a chance 25 yards out but again, a defender got a foot in.

Kane Wills lost possession and allowed Chipstead striker Ray Freeman a run at goal but the end result was a scuffed shot that Stoner watched trickle well wide of the post.

It was all fairly pedestrian for a while, with the Rocks not able to find their normal fluent passing game and get the ball into the danger zone for Prior and Nightingale.

Nightingale almost broke the deadlock when Prior’s flick-on put him clear, but the keeper got something in the way of his shot and it bounced agonisingly wide for a corner.

Four minutes before the break Prior broke the deadlock, helping the ball into an empty net after Johnson’s run ended with him releasing Nightingale, who rounded keeper Grant and pulled it back for his strike partner from the touchline.

Stoner kept the Rocks in front with a brilliant point-blank save at his near post a minute later when Wayne Hibbert found space for a shot. Stoner pushed it out and Whitehead completed the clearance.

Johnson looked set to add a second when he weaved his way to the edge of the box in first-half injury time but he was off-balance by the time he got his shot away and it skewed well wide.

The majority of the crowd of 402 had a happy half-time with the Rocks in the lead, but knew there was hard work ahead in the second half.

The second half began like the first, with neither team capable of keeping possession for any length of time nor creating a clear-cut opening.

For Chipstead, a long throw was cleared to skipper Lee Coburn 20 yards out but his volley flew horribly wide.

The Rocks made a change on 63 minutes with winger Dan Royce replacing Wood on the right.

That did little to get the Rocks into their stride and the next ten minutes or so saw Chipstead have the lion’s share of the possession, though with Stoner and his defence standing firm in the face of some high balls into the box.

From nowhere the Rocks got a second on 71 minutes. Johnson made the goal by winning the ball then running into space down the left and he delivered a pinpoint cross which the unmarked Nightingale stooped to nod in – his 20th league strike of the season.

On 75 minutes, Nightingale was replaced by Dean Maynard, making his first appearance for the Rocks since joining Wick on dual registration.

Chipstead sub Kofi Quartey – who had just replaced AJ Morrison - beat Stoner to a near-post cross with 12 minutes left but could only direct it over the bar.

It was almost three when Johnson set up Crane for a lovely curling shot from the corner of the penalty box, but it came back off the bar after beating Grant.

A second change for the Rocks saw Jon Marzetti replace Whitehead.

The Rocks had looked a little more relaxed since their second goal and a more incisive move ended with Wills crossing for Prior, but the keeper, who had looked unsure of himself a number of times from high balls, gathered at the second attempt.

Birmingham almost converted a free-kick from 20 yards when he beat the wall but Grant got across well to beat it away.

It was 3-0 in the 90th minute when Prior swept home a shot as he met another Birmingham free-kick, awarded for a foul on Johnson 25 yards from goal.

Johnson was named the man of the match by the Bognor Observer and nearly capped his display with a goal, but Grant saved at his feet after a run through the middle and Maynard couldn’t put away the rebound.

Rocks: Stoner, Crane, Whitehead, Wills, Axten, Bond, Wood, Birmingham, Prior, Nightingale, Johnson. Subs: Marzetti, Royce, Maynard.

Chipstead: Grant, Bedford, Thompson, Coburn, Hollingsworth, Greir, Morrison, James, Freeman, Harding, Hibbert. Subs: Grizzle, Davis, Quartey, Tompkins.

Ref: I Bentley (Kent).

* The Rocks are next in action next Saturday away to Met Police.