Rocks win third in four with late strike at Billericay

The Rocks overcame the handicap of a first-half red card to come away with a 2-1 victory at Billericay.

Ben Godfrey’s close-range effort midway through the first half put the Rocks on their way and after the hosts had levelled soon afterwards, substitute Terry Dodd’s late spectacular strike ensured Bognor recorded their first away win of the season.

Boss Jamie Howell named the same starting XI who had thumped Canvey Island 5-0, with Dan Sackman replacing Daryl Wollers on the bench.

On Non-League Day, both sides showed attacking purpose in the early stages and an excellent through ball to Ollie Pearce saw the youngster fire narrowly over, although a flag had been raised for offside.

In the 23rd minute, the Rocks took the lead when Godfrey connected with Arron Hopkinson’s low cross from the right to divert the ball home at the near post, squeezing it in via a touch from keeper Billy Lumley and the post.

The hosts showed their attacking intent when Ricky Sappleton unleashed a powerful 30-yard drive which bounced back off the post with Mark Zawadski well beaten.

But on 34 minutes, possession was lost in the centre of the park and Joe Benjamin found himself one-on-one with Zawadski and rounded the keeper. Despite appearing to have taken the ball too wide, the big striker adjusted himself to coolly back-heel into the empty net for the leveller.

Bognor almost regained the lead when from a Kane Wills corner, but Craig Robson saw his goalbound header hacked off the line by a defender.

Just before the break came one of the game’s major talking points when James Crane was shown a straight red by referee Graham Ions for what was deemed a dangerous tackle. Despite his protests, Crane headed for the early shower and the Rocks reacted, readjusting their formation by bringing on substitute Jon Marzetti in place of Pearce.

The second half saw the hosts look to make their numerical advantage count but they were unable to break down a resolute Rocks defence who were able to soak up any pressure heading their way, with Stuart Axten a colossus in the back four.

Zawadski did his reputation as a fine shot-stopper no harm when he was on hand to block Sappleton’s effort.

Ben Johnson made his second appearance since returning from a year-long injury by coming off the bench but it was another substitution that was pivotal to the outcome, with Dodd replacing goalscorer Godfrey in a straight swap up front.

With the game seemingly heading for a draw, Dodd produced the sort of moment of magic for which he is known by scoring another trademark goal-of-the-season contender in the 90th minute.

After receiving the ball with his back to goal, he flicked the ball up before volleying home on the turn, sending his shot soaring past Lumley - to the delight of his team-mates and the rumbustious travelling support behind the goal.

There was still time for further action at the other end with keeper Lumley going forward for a corner. It was headed out by the towering figure of Axten but the Rocks were unable to take advantage of the open goal at the other end.

In the closing moments, every Bognor player gave 110 per cent by challenging for every ball before the referee eventually blew for full-time.

BOGNOR: Zawadski, Malins, Crane, Tuck (Johnson), Axten, Robson, Hopkinson, Wills, Godfrey (Dodd), Whyte, Pearce (Marzetti). Subs unused: Sackman, Boyle.

ROB GARFORTH