Rocks Review: Rocks 4 Sittingbourne 2

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The Rocks survived a nervous second half to claim three vital points against Sittingbourne - but face losing defender Stuart Axten for the final two league games after he was controversially sent off late on.

Goals from Sonny Cobbs, Terry Dodd, Ben Johnson and Ashley Robinson secured the points but the strugglers from Kent turned a 3-0 deficit at half-time into a 3-2 scoreline with 13 minutes left to make the hosts sweat.

Title rivals Dulwich Hamlet and Whitehawk both won again - leaving the Rocks two points off top spot and with a game in hand on leaders Dulwich ahead of Monday’s trip to Worthing.

The Rocks brought midfielder Cobbs into their starting line-up in place of Ben Andrews as they set about securing a much-needed victory a week after they lost top spot in Ryman one south.

The Rocks had all the early pressure and Johnson beat three men inside the box before seeing his close-range shot cleared off the line.

From the corner James Crane set up Dodd but keeper Adam Woodward got out to deflect his shot for another corner.

But the Rocks did take the lead on 11 minutes. Robinson picked up a throw-in on the left and threaded a lovely pass into the box for Cobbs, who took it on and stabbed it past Woodward at his near post.

Robinson twice had chances to make it 2-0 before the half-hour was up. First he tried to bundle in a corner and his effort was cleared off the line, then he blazed a near-post shot over after Dodd and Johnson set him up.

The Rocks earned some breathing space with a second goal on 31 minutes. Kane Wills was the provider with a perfect cross from the right touchline for Dodd, who rose and planted a classic header past the static keeper.

The game fell into a bit of a lull but all that Sittingbourne could threaten were a couple of free-kicks in dangerous-looking positions but which were poorly delivered into the box and came to nothing.

The Rocks went three up a minute before the break. Robinson was clattered 30 yards from goal and when he took the free-kick himself he beat the keeper but saw it come back off the base of the post. Cobbs almost got to it first but Johnson was on hand to slide in the loose ball.

The Rocks were forced into a couple of changes at the start of the second half as Johnson - hurt while scoring the third goal - and Dodd picked up knocks and came off as precautions. Steve Harper and Andrews replaced them.

The changes seemed to disrupt the Rocks, who were unable to rediscover their first-half fluency - although Andrews was close with a lob over Woodward which a defender had to head clear from under the bar.

Keeper Woodward had strained a thigh and had to be replaced between the sticks by defender Calum McGeehan.

Sittingbourne silenced the home crowd by pulling one back on 65 minutes as Elie Kayembe sprinted on to a ball down the right, rounded Stoner and slotted in from a difficult angle.

The Rocks continued to struggle to find their rhythm and paid for their lacklustre showing as Sittingbourne cut the deficit to one goal with 13 minutes left.

Robb Lyall was the man to get it as he headed in a corner, despite Stoner’s attempts to claw it away from under the crossbar.

The Rocks did their best to stay positive and Crane got on the end of a Wills ball across the face of goal only to balloon it over the top.

There was high controversy with a few minutes left as Axten and visiting sub Bradley Spice were red-carded. Spice put his head into Axten’s face after the two challenged for the ball in the Rocks area - but it was unclear why Axten was sent off. There was some suggestion Axten had left a foot in during the challenge - but even so, the red card seemed harsh and it will be interesting to see if the Rocks appeal.

As things stand Axten would miss the last two league games, against Walton and Hersham and Maidstone, and either a play-off semi-final or the first game of next season.

The Rocks still had a few minutes to hold out but made sure of the points when Robinson ran on to Wills’ pass down the right, cut in past his man and slotted the ball past McGeehan at his near post.

Andrews almost made it 5-2 but hit the base of a post after making a similar run to the one that had brought Robinson a goal.

Rocks: Stoner, Marzetti, Wollers, Crane, Axten, Obamwonyi, Cobbs, Wills, Robinson, Dodd, Johnson. Subs: Andrews, Harper, Whyte, Killpartrick.

Sittingbourne: Woodward, Girt, Ulph, Hogg, McGeehan, Lyall, Cooper, Goldsmith, Nwoko, Kaycombe, Moore. Subs: Palfrey, Hogg, Spice, Edwards, Dowley.

Ref: S Potter (Surrey)

STEVE BONE