Lowestoft late to the party '“ but too good for Rocks
Lowestoft arrived at Bognor two hours late - but went home happy after landing the Rocks with a losing start to the Ryman premier campaign.
James Crane’s late goal was never likely to affect the outcome after Lowestoft had taken charge of affairs as the long afternoon dragged on and it finished 3-1.
The long delay to kick-off couldn’t have helped either team as the visitors were stuck on a coach for hours and the Rocks players were warmed up and ready to go at the allotted time.
After two coach breakdowns early on their journey south, the Suffolk side finally arrived just before 4pm, by which time it looked like a few in the crowd had given up and gone home.
There was a second debut in the Rocks side for James Fraser and first debuts for keeper Billy Granger, striker Jimmy Wild and left-sided utility player Dylan Barnett, on loan from Brighton’s academy.
More new Rocks names were on the bench - Darren Budd, back for a second spell at the Lane, Ed Sanders, Fintan Walsh, Jason Davis (also from Brighton’s academy) and Will Robinson.
Barnett, playing on the right of midfield, was first to threaten the visitors, looking dangerous whenever he had the ball at his feet. One shot on six minutes from outside the box was blocked by a defender but when the loose ball came back to him, he skied his volley.
And it was Barnett who nearly broke the deadlock on 11 minutes, forcing keeper Jamie Waite into a sharp close-range save when he stole in to get on the end of a Doug Tuck ball into the six-yard box.
Wild wanted a 15th-minute penalty when he went down under a challenge while running on to a Barnett pass but the referee deemed it a fair tackle.
The Rocks had a couple of scares as Harry Barker and Chris Henderson got forward to test Granger, but he was equal to each effort.
Then Wild twisted in the air to send a header just wide as a cross from the right fell to him.
Ollie Pearce surged into the box on 27 minutes and forced a clearance which fell to Tuck, whose volley was deflected towards the keeper and almost fell back to Pearce - but Waite was first to it.
Granger got away with a failed attempt to dribble past Henderson as he came out of his box to clear. Henderson won the ball but saw his ball into the box cleared.
Fraser Blake-Tracey drifted a 25-yard free-kick over the bar.
Then Reed turned two defenders and rifled in a shot that Granger did well to save low to his right.
But within a minute, Henderson went one better for the visitors by picking up possession 25 yards out and firing low past Granger’s dive.
Lowestoft had their tails up now and Ryan Jarvis should have converted at the far post after Reed’s cross was flicked on but he was blocked.
The Rocks looked fairly lively from early in the second half. A nice move with Tuck at its centre ended with a Fraser cross twice almost being turned in by Barnett at the far post - the second time via a deflection off the youngster when a defender’s clearance hit him.
From the corner, Crane had a free header but sent it just wide.
The Rocks conceded a killer second goal just before the hour. A glancing header was cleared off the line but fell to centre-half Michael Spillane whose low shot was deflected in by the helpless Dan Beck.
Immeiately, the Rocks made an attacking change by bringing on Davis for Gary Charman.
Beck’s difficult afternoon was not helped by a yellow card for a foul five yards from the D. Ross Jarvis curled the free-kick round the wall and only inches wide.
To their credit the Rocks kept on battling and Crane was close with a 25-yard drive that was just too high to trouble Waite.
There was another Rocks change with 12 minutes left, Ed Sanders replacing Beck, while Lowestoft brought on Connor Deeks for Jamie Forshaw.
Pearce turned his man and ran into the box, almost going down in the process, but was crowded out as he shot.
Sub Deeks should have made it 3-0 on 82 minutes but his sidefooted shot towards an empty net was brilliantly intercepted on the line by Sanders.
But it was 3-0 three minutes later as chief tormentor Henderson danced past a couple of soft challenges and wrongfooted Granger for the visitors’ third.
Lowestoft made a final change as Adam Smith replaced Reed.
Bognor pulled one back as Crane poked in from a Pearce corner in the 90th minute but it was too late to have Lowestoft worried.
The Rocks managed a couple more attacks as they pushed to complete the most unlikely of comebacks and keeper Waite had to be alert to keep them two ahead.
Bognor will aim to open their account at Merstham on Tuesday night, before heading to Grays next Saturday.
Rocks: Granger, Crane, Wollers, Tuck, Field, Charman, Fraser, Beck (capt), Wild, Pearce, Barnett. Subs: Budd, Sanders, Walsh, Davis, Robinson.
Lowestoft: Waite, Barker, Blake-Tracey, Fisk, Spillane, McAuley, Henderson, Ross Jarvis, Reed, Forshaw, Ryan Jarvis. Subs: Deeks, Smith, Marsden, Glober, Jessop.
Ref: James Robinson (Southampton)
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