Shattered Rocks reflect on the prize that slipped through their grasp

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Shattered ... absolutely shattered.

That was how Darin Killpartrick said he felt after the Rocks’ dream of promotion to the Ryman premier division went up in smoke.

And it probably summed up how everyone else connected with the club was feeling.

The joint manager was speaking the morning after his team lost their Nyewood Lane play-off semi-final to Dulwich Hamlet.

But he might just as easily have been speaking after the draw at Chatham on Saturday.

For most believe quite firmly that the Rocks didn’t blow it in the play-offs – they blew it by not winning the title and instead having to play in those play-offs.

The momentum had gone. The moment had passed.

They were never going to raise themselves for a new assault on promotion by beating a couple of teams who had finished, in terms of points, way below their own lofty position and superb points total.

And so a dream that took nearly nine months to build took just four days to fall apart at the seams.

Bognor won 29 of their 42 league games – more than two-thirds. They scored 103 goals – nearly 2.5 per match.

They had the league’s top scorer, the division’s best crowds, the univerally-praised finest pitch and probably the best wishes of more rivals than any other team could boost.

But it all counted for nothing in the final table.

Since drawing with their main rivals Met Police on April 2, the Rocks had stayed in top spot by winning five games out of five going into the season’s final day.

They needed one final push over the line. They needed to match the Met’s result, and they’d be there. But they couldn’t do it.

Killpartrick and his fellow joint manager Jamie Howell both felt the chance had gone and despite geeing up their injury-hit squad to face Dulwich, the inevitable happened and the London side went through to Saturday’s final.

Killpartrick said: “If the Chatham draw had come in any other game, we’d have said it wasn’t a bad result – a point from a game on a bumpy pitch against a lively home team when we weren’t at our best. But it wasn’t any other game.

“I wouldn’t say we feared the play-offs after that but it was like starting again – another two games we had to win. And psychology plays a part.

“We’re extremely proud of all our players and I hope the fans are too. We’re quite a young team but we have matured and progressed enormously over this season. The outcome can’t take away what we’ve achieved.

“I adore these players and we’ve brought a smile – and a lot of supporters – back to Nyewood Lane. We’ve got our clubhouse back, we’ve got Jack Pearce’s health back and we’ve got firm foundations to build on.”

Howell said: “The real disappointment was Saturday, not Tuesday night. Losing in the play-offs wasn’t a surprise.

“We gave it our all and I can’t fault the players. It was horrible to see the disappointment in everyone’s faces.

“If we were going to mess it up, I didn’t think it would be in the last game. Football’s cruel at times.

“I’m sure this team can get promoted – it’s just a shame it didn’t happen this time.”