Bognor extended their unbeaten league run to nine games with a 1-1 draw at VCD - but it was a disastrous day as far as their FA Trophy build-up goes, with Dan Beck and Craig Robson picking up injuries and Doug Tuck sent off.
The extent of Beck and Robson’s injuries are not yet known, while Tuck seems certain to miss the second leg of the Trophy semi-final at Grimsby in a fortnight at the start of a three-game ban.
A first-half Jason Prior strike wasn’t enough to take all three points back to Nyewood Lane, but the Rocks remain fifth, in the play-off zone, with plenty of games in hand on those around them.
Connor Tighe got another start for the men in green and white as Jamie Howell made a couple of changes from the side which lost in extra-time in the Sussex Senior Cup semi-final on Wednesday.
Inside the first minute, Tighe’s cross from the right was blocked before Calvin Davies’ cross was too strong.
Alexander Kelly was almost sent through for the hosts with a neat pass but Grant Smith came out to gather.
Olalekan Bankole squared to Malachi Hudson, whose shot was deflected just over the bar.
Dan Beck went down under a challenge and seemed to have a dead leg. He had a few moments to run it off and did return to play.
Chad Field replaced Beck on 11 minutes after the midfielder’s earlier knock. The Rocks will be desperate to get him fit for the semi-final first leg next Saturday.
The breakthrough came on 17 minutes for Bognor when Ollie Pearce sped down the right to get a cross in to Prior, who only had to tap in.
Stuart Green teed up Pearce but he slid his shot wide. The resulting corner from Pearce was punched out by Budd, under pressure by Sami El-Abd.
Derek Duncan’s high hanging cross bounced into the net on 25 minutes but it was disallowed for a foul on Smith by Bankole. Hudson then struck over the bar from outside the box.
Craig Robson’s pass forward was just too much for Tighe, then Smith had to gather a bouncing pass over the top with Bankole pressurising.
Duncan’s direct free-kick was blocked by the defensive wall, then as Bognor broke, Robson’s ball forward found Pearce but his backheel rolled harmlessly to the goalkeeper.
The referee had words with Green and Duncan on 37 minutes after a scuffle.
Four minutes from the break, VCD were awarded a penalty after the ball struck Davies’ arm in the box when a pass by Hudson was blocked. Ricky Sappleton stepped up and tucked it away just out of the reach of Smith.
Green won a corner and Pearce’s delivery almost found El-Abd but a defender cleared the danger.
Richard Avery forced a good save from Smith with seconds to go before half-time.
The hosts brought on Harry Brickwood for Ashley Probets after half-time.
Alex Kelly’s free-kick was well stopped by Smith, then down the other end Bognor’s claims for a handball were ignored.
Bognor were caught on the break after the penalty claims were ignored and Bankole almost made them pay when he cut inside from the left and, with Smith out of his goal, saw his low shot roll agonisingly wide of the post.
Pearce’s corner fell to James Crane, who turned and shot only just wide.
The Rocks replaced Tighe with Alex Parsons on 56 minutes.
Rob Budd came out of his goal to beat Parsons to a loose ball.
Prior latched on to a deflected cross by Crane but he didn’t get enough on his header.
A forward ball by Field set up Pearce and his low cross bounced through to Green, whose low shot was well stopped by Budd on 62 minutes.
Parsons spun a cross on to the top of the net with Prior lurking, then a run down the left by Prior saw him cut the ball across and Green was there but he scuffed his shot well wide.
Alfie Rutherford replaced Green on 65 minutes.
Parsons’ free-kick picked out Prior and he spun his header back into the box. Rutherford’s shot from point-blank range was blocked by the goalkeeper. The resulting corner by Pearce was headed over by Prior.
After more pressure on the VCD goal, Bognor suffered a big blow when Tuck’s challenge on Jeffery Imnida drew a straight red card from the referee on 74 minutes. Imndia needed treatment but did not need to go off.
Rutherford laid the ball off for Pearce but his instant strike with about ten minutes left spun well wide.
Rutherford then set up Robson, who forced a diving save from Budd.
Pearce’s freekick was deflected away on 89 minutes as Bognor tried to find a winner. Sappleton received a yellow card as Bognor continued to pressurise.
Rutherford headed over the bar following another cross from the left. Then Robson set up Prior but his shot flew wide.
Robson was brought down - and injured in the process - and yellow cards were shown to Joseph Bruce and Duncan. Pearce’s kick into the box found El-Abd but his header was cut out by the goalkeeper.
Five minutes of time added on couldn’t separate the sides and although Bognor won’t be disappointed with a point, they will be worried about missing key players for one or both the games against Grimsby.
They go to Burgess Hill for another rearranged league game on Wednesday evening.
Rocks: Smith, Davies, Crane, Tuck, El-Abd, Robson, Green (Rutherford 65), Beck (Field 11), Prior, Pearce, Tighe (Parsons 56). Unused subs: Charman, Nilsen.
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