THREE goals from midfield earned the Rocks another valuable home win to keep them in pole position in the Ryman one south title race.
Wins for Whitehawk and Dulwich Hamlet keep up the pressure but promotion is in the Rocks’ hands after Harvey Whyte’s first goal for the Rocks, James Crane’s third in three weeks and a Kane Wills strike saw off the former Kent League champions.
Ashley Robinson started, despite fears he would miss out after he took a knock at Chipstead. Antonio Gonnella, Ben Andrews and Sonny Cobbs were on the bench.
The Rocks started well and after just five minutes Whyte beat his marker before curling the ball wide with a shot from just inside the box.
Terry Dodd went to ground and won a free-kick. Robinson stepped up to drill a low shot, but it was well saved by Kieron Mann and Crane couldn’t quite follow it up as the ball was loose for a moment.
After ten minutes Dave Cook for the visitors was shown a yellow card after he went into a tackle on Crane with his studs showing.
For large periods in the first half Bognor struggled to get the ball out of their own half. However, the Hythe players failed to capitalise as they looked somewhat lost going forward.
Cook played in James Dryden on the counter-attack but it was called offside. Wills’ cross at the other end was cleared.
Crane smashed a shot on the turn after Ben Johnson had cut inside. The ball spun narrowly over the bar from 20 yards out. Good work from Johnson allowed the winger to get a cross in. Robinson’s blocked attempt at goal eventually rolled out to Wills, whose low shot flew wide of the left post.
Calm minds were needed as Stuart Axten headed back to Craig Stoner. The goalkeeper just managed to get to it before Dryden.
The Rocks took the lead on 27 minutes. Johnson was the provider with a curling cross and Whyte was there on the edge of the six-yard box to head home.
On 32 minutes a bizarre moment occurred. The referee was surrounded by players in Bognor’s half of the field. The whistle wasn’t blown and so play continued. Eventually it had transpired that Osa Obamwonyi had said something to the man in the middle and he received a booking. It took the referee a while to regain control.
Aaron Lacy sent a long forward ball down the right flank that bounced off Obamwonyi’s back and Kane Rice retrieved it. Rice’s left-footed shot curled well wide.
A diagonal ball found Johnson on the left. He wove his way past Lacy but failed to find a fellow player to get a clear shot at goal with his cross.
With four minutes left of the first half, the Rocks failed to clear their lines and Ronnie Dolan was let through. After being blocked on his first attempt, his second shot forced Stoner into a diving save.
Lacy’s cross on the left floated harmlessly wide and off for a goal-kick, then Dodd beat the defence with a neat turn in the box but his fierce shot was pushed away by Mann.
Bognor extended their lead on 55 minutes. The ball was played to Crane and with the goalkeeper stranded he shot low into an empty net.
John Walker’s attempt at a cross was a sign that the visitors lacked something in the final third when it flew straight at Stoner.
Robinson got the ball into the area from the right, but when the ball finally fell to Johnson, the right winger could only scuff his shot on the rise from inside the box.
Darryl Wollers let fly with a shot. Mann blocked it and Walker cleared the loose ball.
The Rocks put the win beyond doubt with the third goal on 68 minutes. Robinson’s skills on the left allowed him to cross into the box. Wills was waiting for it and he belted home on the volley, giving Mann no chance of saving it.
Things just weren’t working for Hythe as another through-ball to Dryden was deemed in vain by an offside flag.
On 79 minutes sub Gonnella went to ground in the area but the referee ignored his claim for a penalty.
One obvious threat from the visitors was the long throw of Lacy. Tom Parkinson latched on to one but headed over the bar.
Taser Hassan was a tricky left-sided player for Hythe who rarely got on the ball, but when he did he wasn’t afraid to run at the defence. He did well to get in a cross from the left but Dryden’s header looped well wide and too high to trouble Stoner.
A final long throw with Lacy and Parkinson combining again came to nothing as Stoner saved well down to his right.
The Rocks will be pleased to get the win and another clean sheet to boost to their title hopes.
They go to Crawley Down next Saturday.
ROCKS: Stoner, Marzetti, Wollers, Crane (Andrews 61), Axten, Obamwonyi, Whyte (Gonnella 69), Wills, Robinson (Cobbs 76), Dodd, Johnson. Unused Subs: Thomson, Boyle.
Mar 31 Crawley Dn A
Apr 7 Sittingbourne H
Apr 9 Worthing A
Apr 14 Whyteleafe H
Apr 21 Walton & Hersham H
Apr 28 Maidstone A