THE ROCKS were left to ponder what could have been as their FA Cup dream ended in a fiery replay at Nyewood Lane on Tuesday evening.
The magic of the cup was put paid to by a feisty Weymouth side in the second qualifying round, although it was Bognor that ended up seeing red twice in the 4-1 defeat as they ended the game with just nine men.
Having led through Ben Johnson’s 11th-minute spot-kick, Doug Tuck received his marching orders midway through the first half for retaliating to a hefty challenge.
Rocks goalkeeper Mark Zawadski was then sent-off in the second half for a challenge in the box which sparked a mad three-minute spell.
The visitors, who also had a man sent off late on, converted the penalty to draw level and quickly added two more goals, before sealing the tie with a fourth late on.
The defeat was Bognor’s first in ten games and made all the more poignant, by the fact they were five minutes from going through away at Weymouth on Saturday, before conceding two late goals.
Rocks boss Jamie Howell admitted a huge feeling of disappointment at the exit and was left to reflect a ‘moment of madness’ which left his side architects of their own downfall in some ways.
He said: “It’s a big disappointment, if I am very honest about it, we’re just very frustrated. I thought we did ok but we contributed to the loss as much as they did to win it, if that makes sense?
“We played well and some good football and should have won the game, we had enough chances to do that. Without being disrespectful, we contributed more to losing the game than they did to winning it.
“We spoke to the players a great deal about staying disciplined but a moment of madness from Doug, which is very out of character for him, put us looking at a very difficult task – and having one sent off was enough, but two left it nigh on impossible.
“I’ve got no complaints with the referee for the two decisions. Doug’s was right and the goalkeeper’s was very difficult. I have looked at pictures and watched videos and some look as though he got a hand on it, I have seen them given and seen them not given, it was one of those.”
Fans at the match, however, have been quick to criticize the referee and suggested a physical game plan from the visitors paid off in the end, with many hard challenges going lightly punished.
It will be seen as a missed opportunity for Howell’s side as the manager also felt they would have had a decent chance in the next round (third qualifying) against Cirencester, but stressed the message is now, let’s get back to winning ways.
He added: “There were a lot of things going on that we weren’t happy about, but maybe our young side and inexperience cost us.
“With the draw that came out, if we could get there, we knew we had a chance in the next round as well.
“There was a good feeling around the club and town that we may be able to do something this year. So it’s an overriding disappointment, more so as we did not choke and played well and we should have taken our chances that we had.
“I am very upset with the fact we are out, but that’s football, we have to take it on the chin. We’ll dust ourselves down and get back to winning football games, that will be the message from the management.”
Rocks return to league action on Saturday with a home clash against Enfield.