Bognor have never worn the mantle of favourites very comfortably and that turned out to be the case once again as they were brought down to earth by a spirited Sandown & Shanklin team, who won 6-3 at Hampshire Avenue in London three south west.
Bognor’s form has been impressive lately, beating two top sides in two weeks, whereas the Islanders had won only one game all season.
However, closer examination of the results at this halfway stage of the season suggested there would be very little between the two sides and the final score confirmed this.
The torrential rain during the preceding 24 hours had a major impact on the proceedings – this was an old-fashioned score and the match was played on an old-fashioned pitch and in an old-fashioned style.
The visitors adapted to the conditions much better, particularly on a deteriorating surface during the second half, and fully deserved a win which lifted them clear of the relegation zone.
Bognor began full of confidence, launching several attacks in the first 15 minutes and creating two clear-cut scoring opportunities.
When these chances were squandered no-one would have guessed that, not only would the home side fail to create another opening, but had either one of those early misses been taken it would have been enough to win the game.
Bognor had to settle for a solitary penalty from Rob Parry to give them a lead that looked increasingly fragile as the half wore on.
Bognor spurned a second kickable penalty chance, choosing instead to go for an attacking lineout. It wasn’t a day for accurate throwing and the visitors stole the ball, clear their line and win a penalty of their own 40m upfield.
The conditions meant both sides were guilty of handling errors but, as the the islanders grew in confidence, they began to execute their simple but effective game plan, built around a strong pack of forwards and some intelligent kicking.
Sandown & Shanklin missed a simple kick in front of the Bognor posts but the home side were playing much too loose a game. The large crowd deserved better but the only thing they had to cheer about was a 30m charge by Chris Misselbrook and some sound defensive work by Josh Riggall.
With the wind behind them in the second half the Islanders were in the driving seat. For long periods they pinned the home team deep in their own half and put immense pressure on the Bognor set-pieces. They kept the ball tight and drove their opposite numbers back while Parry and the rest of his backs looked on helpless.
The only surprise was that, having equalised early in the second half through a simple penalty goal, the visitors took until ten minutes from the end to go ahead, having missed two other kickable opportunities.
Referee Ben Bulpett continued, rightly, to punish the struggling home side for a variety of offences and Bognor were unable to break the islanders’ stranglehold.
Bognor defended well, Rob Legge and Harry Dyer enjoying some big hits, but by the end of a miserable game Dyer had departed with a pulled hamstring and Legge was suffering from concussion. Both are likely to be missing until after Christmas.
Without any meaningful possession Bognor’s backs were forced to feed on scraps but even the speedy Pat Gibbs was bogged down by the pitch, a late run by the full-back ending in disappointment after a glimmer of hope down the right-hand touchline.
Sandown & Shanklin were worthy winners on the day and Bognor deserved no more than the solitary losing bonus point they managed to salvage from a game to forget.
This Saturday Bognor entertain Horsham in the Bob Rogers Cup (KO 1.45pm)
BOGNOR: Gibbs, Stevens, Burgess, Brock, Riggall, Parry, Legge, Morgan, Ubsdell, Angelou, Misselbrook, Tompkins(C), Mitchell, Dyer, Flinn. Reps: Greenslade, Masters, Wolf.