Bognor threaten to blow away Brightlingsea - but end up holding on

Blistering start - nervy finish. The Rocks beat Brightlingsea Regent 3-2 at Nyewood Lane in a game they should have killed off before a late second goal by the visitors had home fans fretting.

Tuesday, 4th February 2020, 9:42 pm
Updated Tuesday, 4th February 2020, 10:14 pm
Rocks top scorer Dan Smith got another two / Picture: Tommy McMillan

Dan Smith's early double and a Mason Walsh goal earned three points which pushed the Rocks closer to the play-off places but they will be wondering how they didn't kill off the game much sooner.

The three points left Bognor seventh and just three points off the top five ahead of Saturday's trip to Enfield.

The Rocks started the night keen for a victory after successive draws had somewhat stalled their push for a place in the Isthmian premier play-off places.

But they often struggle against teams battling for survival near the bottom of the table and they knew their visitors would give them a stiff test.

Bognor were without injured centre-half Joe Cook and suspended skipper Harvey Whyte.

If anything Regent had the best of the opening exchanges, causing one or two half-alarms at the back for Bognor.

But it was the Rocks who took the lead on five minutes out of nowhere when a shot by Smith from 20 yards seemed to be saved by keeper Charlie Turner only for him to allow it to trickle in.

Within three minutes, though, Brightlingsea were level when a long throw caused chaos in the Rocks area. Lewis Byrne-Hewitt found himself unmarked for a shot which came back off the base of a post and captain Jake Turner drove home the rebound from an acute angle.

Bognor won the first corner on 11 minutes and it fell to Brad Lethbridge but his snatched left-footed shot was wildly off target.

After that Bognor had the best of it with some quick passing that put Brightlingsea under pressure but had no end product.

Bognor were back in front in the 18th minute and although Smith was the scorer, he owed everything to Brad Lethbridge, who dribbled down the left, beat his man for pace, cut back on to his right foot and crossed beautifully for Smith, whose rose to plant a header past keeper Turner and into the top corner.

Two minutes later it was 3-1 as Tommy Leigh crossed from the right to force a panicking defender to conceded a corner – and when that came in it eventually fell to Walsh to poke in from six yards out.

It might have been 4-1 on 23 minutes as Smith rose well again to meet a Doug Tuck corner but he directed it narrowly wide.

It was all Rocks and Lethbridge shot over from a tight angle when Leigh's cross fell to him at the far post. Breathless stuff.

For a while it was a chance a minute and it was Lethbridge again taking his turn in the 25th minute after a fine pass from Jake Flannigan – this time he was denied by a good parried save low down by Turner. From the corner Smith glanced another header wide.

Bognor conituned to move quickly when they were on the attack and Walsh sent in a cross for Lethbridge but he couldn't wrap his head around the chance.

Everyone was getting in on the shooting act – Harry Kavanagh was the next to chance his arm, forcing Turner into a good save with a rifled effort from the edge of the area after a strong run forward.

A rare Regent attack led to a cross to the near post but George Forrest could only divert it wide.

The visitors were forced into a change – Finn O'Reilly being replaced by Romario Dunne.

Lethbridge was denied again by a defender's block after Kavanagh got a cross to him at the far post. HT 3-1

The first Rocks corner of the second half wasn't long arriving and it led to a real scramble in the box but Regent got it clear.

Bognor were guilty of some sloppy passing which was giving Brightlingsea the chance to attack, to the frustration of the home fans and Robbie Blake on the sidelines.

A flowing move down the left gave James Crane the chance to dribble past a defender for sight of goal but Turner made a good stop to push it away for a corner. From the delivery Leigh volleyed at goal and it came back off the underside of the bar to be claimed by Turner.

Casey's miscued backpass to Tangara led to another golden chance for Regent but sub Dunne shot wide when the loose ball fell to him 30 yards out with the keeper stranded.

Then another Lethbridge-inspired attack gave Crane a chance to curl one at goal from 25 yards and it was only just high and wide. Then Lethbridge created space for himself but his long-ranger was well off target.

Smith then spurned another chance to complete his hat-trick with an air shot from eight yards when Flannigan's off-target shot fell at his feet.

With just under an hour played Bognor had already managed 15 shots at goal.

Crane and Smith combined for another chance that ended with the 19-goal striker having an effort blocked by a defender's boot.

How Bognor had not scored a fourth was not easy to fathom and it was no easier a conundrum to unravel when Lethbridge had a shot saved and then saw the loose ball whipped off his foot by a defender as he got set to slam it home.

Josh Flint replaced Walsh on 65 minutes for the home team.

Crane volleyed a right-sided corner wide as the traffic continued in one-way fashion, yet despite all Bognor's possession there must still have been a nagging worry among the home support that this game was not over.

Dunne curled a dangerous free-kick towards the top corner but Tangara held it – then Smith chipped a shot just beyond the far post.

The non-stop action continued as Keaton Wood surged forward to feed Leigh – he converted the chance but was offside.

Regent captain Jake Turner went down injured with no-one near him, having used all their subs.

During the stoppage Leigh – who had looked like he had picked up a knock in the first half - was replaced by Ben Mendoza.

Bognor were still carving out chances although some of their play had become ragged.

On 86 minutes Smith almost flicked in his third when he met a Mendoza pass into the middle. Then Regent had a lifeline when Byrne-Hewitt ran at goal and with defenders backing off, squeezed a shot past Tangara into the bottom corner of the net to set up a nervous finish.

Flannigan was named as man of the match.

Bognor looked nervous in four added minutes as Regent sensed an unlikely point.

Rocks: Tangara, Kavanagh, Crane, Tuck, Casey, Wood, Walsh, T Leigh, Smith, Flannigan, Lethbridge. Subs - Flint, Mendoza, Wakley, A Leigh.

Brightlingsea: C Turner, Gelashvili, Gould, Kamanzi, Forrest, Boyland, O'Reilly, J Turner, Bugg, Barnett, Byrne-Hewitt. Subs: Thompson, Howell, Dunne, Mudd.

Ref: Sean Jenkins

Att - 347