Bognor and Whitehawk share spoils in feisty Sussex derby
Bognor and Whitehawk played out an entertaining goalless draw in Nyewood Lane's final home game of the season.
The result meant little for the Rocks, who are set to finish marooned in the middle of the Bositk premier table, but the point could yet be valuable to Whitehawk as they fight to stay up.
The game marked the return to action of top Rocks scorer Jimmy Muitt and he looked sharp – good news for the Sussex Senior Cup final against Burgess Hill on May 7 when he is set to lead the line.
It was a shame the Rocks couldn't sign off their home campaign with a victory but their fans gave them a good reception at the end of the game, recognising they had at least been unlucky not to win this one.
It was a Sussex derby but one that had much more riding on it for the visitors than for Bognor. Whitehawk needed a win to scramble clear of the bottom three in the Bostik premier division, but the Rocks are not going up or down this year – a poor run of form over the past couple of months having left them suspended in mid-table, their play-off hopes having died a couple of games ago.
There was a big boost for Bognor fans ahead of kick-off as striker Muitt – out for two months with a knee injury, and how much he has been missed – was fit enough to be named among the subs.
In a fairly uneventful first half Whitehawk went close a couple of times, hitting the post from a Henry Muggeridge corner and later striking Dan Lincoln's bar after Nathaniel Pinney's run at goal led to the ball running loose to Lucas Santos Rodrigues.
For the Rocks, Mason Walsh was at the centre of much of the attacking play – and was close early in the game when he cut inside and fired an effort into the side netting.
As the half wore on Bognor began to do most of the attacking with Walsh causing the Hawks defence a few problems and Harvey Whyte and Reece Meekums both getting into the box for efforts the Whitehawk defence blocked.
In an unusual move, Bognor played Joe Tomlinson – previously only seen at left-back – in midfield, with Keaton Wood on the left of the back four.
There was very nearly an opening goal in the first minute of the second half as Tomlinson sent Jimmy Wild through one-on-one with the keeper – but Wild took too long with the chance and keeper James Broadbent saved.
The Hawks missed a great opportunity to go ahead on 52 minutes when Rodrigues ran through as Bognor appealed for an offside that was not given. Lincoln stood firm and saved the shot with his legs.
Immediately Walsh went through again at the other end but was denied by a defender just as he went to shoot. The corner was headed wide by Wood.
Wood weaved his way into the six-yard box in another Rocks attack but it went out for a goal-kick before he could get a shot goalwards. Then Meekums seemed to be bundled over in the area but the referee ignored the penalty claims.
A double change by the Rocks brought the introduction of Muitt and young midfielder Emmett Dunn in place of Meekums and Wood – with Tomlinson reverting to his familiar spot at left-back.
Muitt almost made an instant impact, going on a mazy run that took him past two defenders and sending a low ball across the face of goal that Wild couldn't quite touch in when just the slightest connection would have resulted in a goal.
A Whithawk change resulted in Kyjuon-Jaeger Marsh-Brown replacing Yannis Ambroisine, who had picked up an injury. Walsh brought a superb diving save from Broadbent with a fierce shot from 15 yards that looked bound for the top corner.
Rodrigues got away from the home defence again on 76 minutes but was denied by an excellent Lincoln double save. Ex-Rocks man James Fraser came on for Whitehawk, replacing Pinney with 13 minutes left.
Richard Gilot was replaced by Tommy Scutt in Bognor's final change and no sooner had he come on than he saw Walsh curl a lovely free-kick only inches high and wide. Five minutes were left when Rodrigues crossed for what looked like a Whitehawk winner – only for Marsh-Brown to blaze the chance over the bar. At the other end Scutt shot from a tight angle but it was over the bar.
Both sides were going for it in the dying stages and Muitt and Tomlinson both tested the Whitehawk keeper but couldn't find a way past him. Then Wild's cross was headed out from beneath the bar by Aaron Goode. Muitt was booked in five added minutes for arguing with an offside decision that stopped him in his tracks.
Whitehawk were so close to a vital winner when Fraser was denied by Lincoln and then Goode's bicycle kick crashed back off the bar. That was their last chance and in truth a point apiece was probably fair at the end of an entertaining if goalless afternoon.
Bognor's last league game is away to play-off chasing Folkestone on Saturday, with the SSC final ten days later.
Rocks: Lincoln, McCormick, Wood, Tomlinson, Field, Sanders, Whyte, Gilto, Wild, Meekums, Walsh. Subs: Scutt, Muitt, Dunn, Leigh.
Whitehawk: Broadbent, Walsh, Goode, Kissock, Ambroisine, Christie, Rodrigues, Emberson, Pinney, Muggeridge, Ovenden.
Ref: Tristan Greaves
Att - 527