Sami sinks Harrow as Rocks return to winning ways

Sami El-Abd bundles in the winner after reacting to his header coming back off the bar / Picture by Tim Hale
Sami El-Abd bundles in the winner after reacting to his header coming back off the bar / Picture by Tim Hale

A second-half goal from Sami El-Abd was enough for Bognor to see off Harrow at Nyewood Lane in the Ryman premier.

Before the game both sides were level on 21 points and in an evenly-contested match, Harrow had the better of the first half but could not find an opening.

And the Rocks made them pay three minutes after the break, when Ollie Pearce’s set-piece was headed onto the crossbar by El-Abd, who was first to react when the ball bounced back into the box, the Rocks defender forcing the bouncing ball over the line.

Howell admitted it was a tight game but he was delighted his side came out on top.

“I think we played well in patches, sometimes our final ball wasn’t great, but on the grand scheme of things, very pleased to get three points,” said Howell.

“Harrow Borough are doing really well this season and they have got some good players, so I knew it was going to be difficult and tight.

Many times we have been the loser of tight games, so this season the games have been tight but we have won more than we have lost and that bodes well.

Jamie Howell

“Many times we have been the loser of tight games, so this season the games have been tight but we have won more than we have lost and that bodes well for the rest of the season.”

Howell made one change following the 2-1 defeat to Farnborough, with Daryl Wollers replacing James Crane in the back four.

The visitors nearly scored inside ten minutes when Grant Smith’s clearance fell short to Spencer McCall but his long-range effort was clawed out by the backpedalling goalkeeper.

This led to some heavy Harrow pressure and McCall had another opportunity minutes later to put his side into the lead. Lewis Driver headed the ball on to Marc Charles-Smith, who ran to the byline before cutting it back to McCall, whose shot sailed wide.

The Rocks responded with an attack of their own after 20 minutes, when Daryl Wollers played a clever early cross which found Alex Parsons at the back post, but he could not find a teammate with his attempted lay off.

Michael Bryan proved a handful for the Rocks throughout the first half and he dug out a cross from the byline on the right flank but Driver’s header did not trouble Smith in the Bognor goal.

With five minutes remaining of the first half, the Rocks came close to breaking the deadlock when Harvey Whyte’s cross was headed back across by Jason Prior into the path of Dan Beck, but a last-ditch clearance from McCall defused the danger.

Howell sent his side out early during the interval with a clear message – and it took them only three minutes to get the lead.

A free-kick deep into Harrow’s half was whipped in by Pearce and El-Abd’s initial effort bounced back off the crossbar and he was the first to react as he bundled the ball over the line.

Ten minutes after the goal, Harrow came agonisingly close to an equaliser when McCall played a clever pass to Driver, who crossed the ball to Bryan – but his shot forced a great save from Smith.

The Rocks had two corners in quick succession on the hour mark with Prior’s header being blocked before the next corner fell to Craig Robson, but his miscued volley went wide.

In the latter stages, Harrow piled men forward but they could not break through Bognor’s resolute defence.

The Rocks came close with two counter attacks on the 70-minute mark. Prior’s shot was tame after he was played through by Pearce – then substitute Doug Tuck, making a welcome return after injury, stretched to meet Prior’s low cross but he could not direct his shot on target.

The visitors’ best chance in the second half came with five minutes remaining, but Bryan’s low cross to Charles-Smith was cleared by El-Abd.

ROCKS: Smith, Whyte, Wollers, Nilsen, El-Abd, Robson, Parsons (Charman 61), Beck (Tuck 61), Prior, Pearce, Field. Subs not used: Rowlatt, Green.

GEORGE BOULTON

Get the latest from Nyewood Lane - including a preview of the FA Cup tie with Oxford City - in the Observer, out on Thursday

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