A Bognor team containing plenty of new faces lost 3-1 to a strong and pacy Havant and Waterlooville in their first friendly of pre-season at Nyewood Lane.
Two goals by Jonah Ayunga proved the difference between the sides but there were some bright performances from familiar Rocks players and one or two of the new names aiming to impress manager Jack Pearce and coach Robbie Blake.
July 9 might be a little early for football as far as some are concerned but the pitch looked perfect, the sun was shining and there was a healthy-sized crowd inside Nyewood Lane for the Rocks' first run-out of pre-season.
The Bognor line-up included a few new faces – with former Havant keeper Charlie Searle between the sticks and no sign at this stage of Dan Lincoln returning; Jobi Griggs at left-back and the returning Stuart Green at No11.
Ten substitutes included Junior Kamara, Dan Simmonds, George Bingham, Baffins Milton's Tommy Leigh (brother of Ashton) and Liam Brady.
Havant included ten new signings in their starting XI as new boss Paul Doswell plots a quick return to the National League premier following the club's relegation to National South last season.
Josh Taylor had the first serious effort at goal in the fifth minute for the Hawks, forcing Searle to concede a corner with a low shot after shaking off the attention of Griggs and running at goal. The corner eventually fell to Rorrie Deacon, who blasted a volley just over.
Jimmy Muitt – last season's Bognor top scorer – won the home team's first corner on seven minutes. That was headed goalwards by Keaton Wood but he was offisde – then Taylor curled a shot just high and wide.
Bognor skipper Harvey Whyte skipped past a couple of players 25 yards out before firing a shot over. But Havant were the more threatening of the sides and Deacon brought a great close-range save out of Searle at his near post.
Havant took the lead on 21 minutes when the Rocks failed to clear the ball from the edge of their box and it fell to Ayunga, who took a touch and buried a fierce low finish past Searle. A minute later Deacon looked set to make it 2-0 from eight yards but Searle beat the effort away.
Ayunga streaked away down the left on 24 minutes and cut into the centre before fizzing a shot a few feet over the bar – and it was all Havant at this stage.
Andy Drury almost stole in at the far post to put away a second Havant goal but a well-timed sliding challenge by Griggs saved the Rocks.
It was 2-0 on 39 minutes when Deacon met a cross from the right and struck the post and the rebound fell to Taylor to lash it home.
Charlie Williamson replaced James Crane for the start of the second half. Havant made a couple of changes - if this report does not include full details, then the fact a number of them did not have shirt numbers and one was not even named on the teamsheet may have something to do with it. Paying fans surely deserve more clarity. The Rocks did not help matters by bringing on subs who had the same shirt numbers as some of those who were coming off.
Back to the action and Muitt had an effort cleared off the line from an early second-half attack by the Rocks. Then Smith turned and shot well from the angle of the box, bringing a good save from Ross Worner.
Immediately Havant got a third when Ayunga twisted and turned in the box and beat Searle's desperate attempt to save from close range. Then Searle made a top-class double save to deny Ayunga.
Ed Sanders had to hobble off injured on 54 minutes. George Bingham replaced him. Soon a second injury blow hit the Rocks and it was another defender forced off – Griggs helped off after what looked a nasty knee injury. He was replaced by Josh McCormick. The double setback brought back memories of the horrific run of injuries to defenders the Rocks suffered last year. As it turned out, neither of these two looked too serious by the end of the night.
Havant brought on a couple more subs, including Marley Ridge, who'd had a brief spell with the Rocks a year earlier, and he nearly nipped in for a fourth Havant goal with his first touch.
Junior Kamara came on for Muitt midway through the second half and looked very lively down the left wing, there was a new No3 on for the hosts in place of Griggs, but no-one knew who it was. One suggestion was that it was Jack Hands. Another change involved Sonny Balkwill-Harnett replacing Dunn.
Leigh replaced Whyte as the succession of substitutions left the game a fairly poor spectacle – as often happens in pre-season friendlies. Leigh quickly made his mark by converting a Kamara corner from close in to make it 3-1.
Nana Baah, Liam Brady and Dan Simmonds replaced Read, Green and Smith.
Marvin Orepo ran through with only Searle to beat but the keeper denied him.
A number of subs came on for Havant with no numbers on their shirts, leaving the crowd with not a clue who they were watching, as the game drifted towards a scrappy end.
A deserved win for Havant - but much to be positive about for Bognor, who look to have added a few good prospects to their potential 2019-20 squad.
Rocks: Charlie Searle, James Crane, Jobi Griggs, Freddie Read, Ed Sanders, Keaton Wood, Harvey Whyte, Emmet Dunn, Dan Smith, Jimmy Muitt, Stuart Green. Subs - Josh McCormick, Junior Kamara, Dan Simmonds, George Bingham, Sonny Balkwill-Harnett, Tommy Leigh, Nana Baah, Jack Hands, Liam Brady, Charlie Williamson.
Hawks: Ross Worner, Benny Read, Anthony Straker, Dean Beckwith, Sam Magri (ex-Pompey), Wes Fogden, Andy Drury, Jonah Ayunga, Rorrie Deakon, Josh Taylor, Nicky Bailey. Simon Walton, Olly Eyres, Marley Ridge, Chris Paul, Joe Cook, Marvin Orepo, Charlie Merritt, Ollie Dennett.