Bognor will be happy to have returned from East Thurrock with a 0-0 draw after a game spoiled by rainy and windy conditions.
Many fans from Bognor had made the trip up to Rookery Hill for this highly-anticipated clash between two in-form sides. East Thurrock began the afternoon in top spot with the Rocks sixth with games in hand on teams around them.
With Harvey Whyte out with an injury, the Rocks’ new loan signing from Brighton, Connor Tighe got a start.
Bognor were playing with the wind in the first half, and after only a minute an East Thurrock free-kick by Sammy Knott went straight through to Grant Smith.
Dan Beck teed up Alfie Rutherford who spun his marker but saw his shot stopped by Lukas Lidakevicius.
Calvin Davies couldn’t deal with a cross that skidded off the greasy surface and Tom Wraight pounced but struck well wide on eight minutes.
Good work from Lewis Smith allowed Ben Marlow to get a shot away, though Sami El-Abd blocked him and Smith gathered the rebound.
Beck’s right-sided corner found Prior but his downward header was kicked off the line by the home defence.
On 21 minutes a late sliding challenge on Prior brought a free-kick which didn’t come to anything.
Tighe did well after Prior found him with a pass and made his way into the box and let fly with a shot. The goalkeeper was equal to it and Prior failed to capitalise on the rebound.
Smith had to punch clear from a left-sided cross by Wraight on 29 minutes.
Then Knott’s cross from the left flashed across the area as Bognor regrouped after Doug Tuck and Ben Wood tussled.
Play was held up as the linesman indicated that he wanted treatment after appearing to get mud in his eyes.
Knott’s lofted free-kick was hit straight into the grateful arms of Smith on 44 minutes after Craig Robson was deemed to have pushed Marlow.
Another lofted ball into the box was cut out by Smith.
Sammons’ attempt from around 30 yards flew over the bar as Bognor began the second half playing against the wind.
A knock-down by Prior got Tighe on to the ball for a run. He got to the edge of the box before squaring the ball to Snorre Nilsen, who swerved his shot well wide on 50 minutes.
Smith’s curled free-kick from the left found Sam Higgins but his instant attempt flew well over .
A long ball from East Thurrock’s half found Higgins but after controlling it his low attempt was well stopped, and his follow-up saw him go to ground, though the referee ignored his claims and gave a goal-kick to Bognor.
The hosts won a corner on 64 minutes as Nilsen was replaced by Gary Charman for Bognor. The corner was cleared by Prior and the clearance fell to Rutherford. He was closed down by Smith whose sliding challenge was late and even though Rutherford didn’t go to ground the referee stopped play and awarded a free-kick to Bognor and a yellow card was shown to Smith.
Bognor replaced Tighe with Alex Parsons after an impressive debut for the Brighton youngster.
Charman’s cross from the right was deflected over by a defender following a long throw on 72 minutes. Beck’s corner was bound for Robson but the defence got there first.
Bognor replaced Rutherford with Stuart Green on 78 minutes. Green was soon in the action combining with Prior on the left and James Crane followed up by piling a low pass into the area that was cleared for a throw.
Another cross following yet another throw in saw Charman cross from the right and Sami El-Abd’s headed chance was blocked away. Shortly after Prior’s turn and shot was instantly blocked in the area.
Substitute Aaron Morgan made headway beyond the Bognor defence after a long ball bounced through but as Smith closed him down and the striker’s low attempt rolled wide of the post.
Higgins went to ground again in the box but his appeals again went unnoticed by the referee on 86 minutes.
Crane had to concede a corner moments later. Wraight’s corner was dealt with but El-Abd and Joe Ellul clashed and the home player received a booking.
Higgins smashed over from another chance outside the box in four minutes of stoppage time as Bognor held on for a well-deserved and rather predictable draw.
Next the Rocks go to Tonbridge - another of the league’s leading teams - on Tuesday, before next Saturday’s FA Trophy quarter-final at home to Torquay.
Rocks: Smith, Davies, Crane, Tuck, El-Abd, Robson, Nilsen (Charman 64), Beck, Prior, Rutherford (Green 78), Tighe (Parsons 70). Unused sub: Field.
Report by LIAM GOODLEY
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