The Rocks, roared on by a large and impressively noisy travelling support, restored a lot of faith after Saturday’s disappointing loss to Grays with a battling display against one of the favourites for promotion this season.
There was one change from the previous match, with Dan Kempson not fully fit. Daryl Wollers came in from the start, with James Crane moving forward to his favoured midfield role.
The match began in whirlwind fashion, with the home side almost opening the scoring within the first minute. Bognor’s defence failed to clear and Peter Dean burst through, requiring an excellent save by Mark Zawadski to prevent a quick opening goal.
However, within another minute Bognor could have been ahead. A wonderful run down the left by Harvey Whyte, in which he beat three defenders, resulted in a dangerous cross low across the box.
The oncoming Arron Hopkinson met it well, and only a despairing lunge by the full-back saved the day. This produced the first of a flurry of early corners for the Rocks as their excellent passing football and the direct running of both Hopkinson and Whyte caused havoc in the home defence.
After just ten minutes there was an early call for a penalty as Terry Dodd was hauled down right on the edge of the penalty box. It looked inside to many, but referee Mr Robothan awarded a free-kick on the line. Dodd’s powerful shot was too high and Wealdstone survived.
It was not all Bognor, however, and Wealdstone looked dangerous whenever they attacked. Zawadski saved well from Chris Moore and then the same player should have done better but blazed over from a good position.
At the other end, home keeper Jonathan North kept his side in the game with a superb save, tipping a fierce goalbound effort from Hopkinson just over the bar.
Just as it seemed it was only a matter of time before Bognor would take the lead, they conceded in the 22nd minute.
An unecessary free-kick was conceded outside the box, and the visitor’s defence were slow to react to the resultant inswinging cross. Wes PARKER was allowed to move forward without a challenge and steer the ball past Zawadski for a simple goal.
The goal encouraged Wealdstone and with Parker in particular driving them on in midfield they began to exert some pressure on Bognor’s defence. Another goal came with ten minutes before the break and again it came from poor defensive play. Jon Marzetti lost the ball on the right and Luis was allowed to evade several challenges beore laying the ball off to Elliott GODFREY. His low shot from 20 yards was well directed into the corner of the net, but it was disappointing that he was given so much time and space.
At 2-0 down, it looked as if Bognor’s disappointing start to the season would continue. However, the team displayed a huge amount of character and battling spirit and appeared confident in their ability to trouble Wealdstone’s defence. Incredibly, they were level by the break.
On 42 minutes, Crane led an attack down the left and his powerful low cross was met by Hopkinson. The keeper appeared to have the shot covered, but WHYTE was in position to divert it past him with a deft touch.
Two minutes later the visiting fans massed behind the goal were in raptures at the equaliser. An excellent move began with Doug Tuck and Marzetti. The ball was fed to Hopkinson, who beat two defenders before feeding a lovely ball through to WHYTE. He held off the challenges of the two central defenders before drilling the ball past North from the edge of the area.
Bognor clearly did not want the half to end and their superiority continued until the break.
Wealdstone regrouped for the second half, and having replaced their left-back, who had been given a torrid time by Hopkinson in the first half, looked more composed.
Bognor did occasionally break, and always looked threatening when either Whyte or Hopkinson were able to run with the ball, but in reality it became a rearguard action for the last 30 minutes and a real test of the visitors’ character and defensive strength.
Stuart Axten had a better game than on Saturday, and is continuing his fight back to full fitness. His heading ability was crucial as Wealdstone launched an aerial bombardment, but all the Rocks players played their part in their defence of a vital point.
Wollers, who was undergoing a scan today (Tuesday) ahead of an expected groin operation, was forced off after playing so well and his replacement Dan Sackman settled well into the left back role.
Wealdstone’s pressure began to tell and with 20 minutes left they thought they had scored, only for Dean’s ‘goal’ to be ruled offside. Two minutes later the home fans were in despair as again Wealdstone thought they had scored, only for Grant’s effort also to be ruled offside.
In between these two, there was a strong appeal for a home penalty as the ball hit Craig Robson’s arm, but the referee waved play on.
Reece Grant should perhaps have scored with a few minutes to go, heading over from close range, and then Ollie Pearce came close for Bognor in an increasingly rare attack.
However, the Rocks held out for a well-earned point against powerful opponents who are still very much among the favourites for promotion.
Special thanks must go to the impressive travelling support. At the end of the game the Wealdstone chairman commented that he had never seen such a passionate and vociferous travelling support at Grosvenor Vale, and many of the Bognor players asked that their grateful thanks be passed to the fans. There is no doubt that such support really does lift and inspire the team – well done to those who made the trip.
ROCKS: Zawadski, Marzetti, Wollers (Sackman 56), Crane, Axten, Robson, Tuck, Wills, Dodd (Pearce 60), Whyte, Hopkinson (Kempson 87). Sub not used: Tribe.