Bognor lose at home to Worthing for first time in 20 years
It was anything but a happy new year for Bognor as they lost at home to fierce rivals Worthing for the first time in 20 years.
Adam Hinshelwood's side were the better side throughout the game and deserved their 3-0 win which came from goals by ex-Rock Alex Parsons, Joel Colbran and Jesse Starkey.
It was a sobering afternoon for Bognor as a young line-up struggled to get up a head of steam, perhaps unsettled by the departure of key centre-half Joe Cook to Havant since their last game.
For Worthing, it completed the league double over the Rocks and strengthened their position in the Isthmian premier title race. For Bognor, it shows there is still a long way to go before they can think of becoming serious contenders for promotion. And it looks like more squad reinforcements are required.
Nyewood Lane welcomed its expected biggest crowd of the season so far, 1,236, for the second meeting of the season between the fierce rivals.
Worthing had won the first game 3-0 at Woodside Road in August and revenge must have been in Bognor's thoughts as they prepared to put their own promotion ambitions to the test against Adam Hinshelwood's second-placed Rebels.
Following the departure of centre-half Joe Cook, who has been recalled from his Rocks loan spell by Havant, there was a debut in the home defence for Pompey academy starlet Harry Kavanagh.
He was in good company with defender Joe Dandy and midfielder Josh Flint, both recently released from the Fratton Park academy, also in the Bognor XI.
Recently injured duo Brad Lethbridge and Mason Walsh were both fit enough to sit on the bench.
The Worthing squad contained a number of ex-Rocks – including skipper Parsons, Ollie Pearce and Reece Myles-Meekums in the starting XI and Darren Budd on the bench.
A scramble in the Rocks box gave home fans a first-minute scare, as did a right-sided corner a minute later, as the home team set up with Dandy, Keaton Wood and James Crane playing as a back three.
Worthing made much the brighter start and Cameron Tutt got forward from left-back to fire a long-range shot well over the bar. Then Parsons cut into the box with a good run down the right and forced Amadou Tangara into a fine save.
The visitors continued to threaten, with Aaron Raccine heading a free-kick just over.
Bognor's first half-chance arrived on nine minutes when Ashton Leigh and Doug Tuck combined down the left and Leigh almost found Dan Smith with a cross.
The warning signs had been there and sure enough Worthing took the lead in the tenth minute when Keaton Wood dallied in possession and allowed Parsons to rob him and run through and slot a low shot beneath Tangara.
Bognor were close to an equaliser on 20 minutes when Tuck's cross was perfect for Smith but his goal-bound was superbly tipped away by Carl Rushworth.
The Rocks were struggling to find any fluency to their passing while Worthing looked dangerous every time Meekums or Parsons got the ball at their feet.
A Kavanagh cross from the wide on the right led to a spillage by Rushworth but he recovered to claim it at the second attempt.
Bognor made a surprise change on 34 minutes, bringing off the unimpressed skipper Harvey Whyte and introducing Lethbridge. Whyte looked as perplexed as many in the crowd as he came and flung the armband in the direction of Crane.
The Rocks switched to a back four and the first move after the change ended in a ball into Lethbridge, from which he curled a shot wide from 15 yards.
Parsons was played clear down the right and squared for Pearce, whose shot was saved – but he was offside. Then it was Pearce's turn to run through with only the keeper to beat but as Tangara came out, Pearce shot wide. Dandy was booked for a foul committed in the move.
Bognor were getting forward with more purpose in the closing stages of the half and Flint burst into the area in one move down the right, only to lose possession.
Worthing were again indebted to Rushworth in the last minute of the first half as he somehow kept out Smith's scrambled effort from Lethbridge's cross.
Smith opened the second half by trying his luck from 30 yards but the shot was always going high and wide.
Bognor were forced into a second change six minutes into the second half when Ashton Leigh picked up a leg injury. Walsh replaced and was immediately in the thick of the action.
A Worthing break might have ended with them taking a 2-0 lead, and the Rocks owed much to Kavanagh as he cleared a cross from in front of goal. But the reprieve was only temporary as the corner was headed home by the unmarked Colbran.
Bognor needed to get one back quickly if they were to salvage anythng but the best they could muster was a low shot by Smith after a Walsh pass that was blocked by a defender.
Lethbridge got away down the left but was a little ambitious in trying to score from a chipped effort from the angle of the box.
The Rebels brought on Budd and Marley Marshall for Pattenden and Myles-Meekums.
Worthing got a killer third on 70 minutes when Pearce raced through and, though taking the ball too wide to score himself, pulled it back for Starkey to hammer home from six yards.
A minute later Tangara had to dive well to save sub Marshall's shot from 20 yards out.
Pearce was replaced by Callum Keeley with 12 minutes left.
Tommy Leigh and Parsons were booked as things threatened to boil over on the pitch.
Walsh brought the home fans to life with a shot that brought a good save out of Rushworth. Smith ought to have got an injury-time consolation with a free header from 12 yards but was out of luck.
Bognor are back in home action when they host Margate on Saturday, when Worthing go to East Thurrock.
Rocks: Tangara, Kavanagh, Crane, Tuck, Dandy, Wood, Whyte, T Leigh, Smith, Flint, A Leigh. Subs: Lethbridge, Walsh, Scutt, Wakley, Hopkinson.
Worthing: Rushworth, Colbran, Tutt, Young, Raccine, Pattenden, Parsons, Aguiar, Pearce, Myles-Meekums, Starkey. Subs: Barker, Budd, Marshall, Stevens, Keeley.
Ref - Greig Walker.