ROCKS REVIEW: Faversham 4 Rocks 0

A hotly-disputed red card in the third minute proved a bad start to a bad night for the Rocks as they lost in the league for the first time in three months away to in-form Faversham.

Young loan defender Perry Ryan was ordered off for an apparent elbow in the face of Faversham’s Dave Luchford, but his team-mates and the Rocks camp protested his innocence.

It meant the Rocks faced a long night with their backs to the wall - and the reality was every bit as bad as the prospects looked after that early blow.

The defeat was their joint biggest of the season - and their first league defeat outside Sussex - and was badly timned, coming just four days before Met Police, the leaders, visit Nyewood Lane.

Whitehawk’s win at Whyteleafe means the Rocks drop down to third, below their Sussex rivals on goal difference.

The opening of the game might have been very different for the Rocks for before Ryan’s dismissal, Dan Beck was put through by Kane Wills only to fail to test home keeper Simon Overland.

After the red card, though, it was a very different story.

James Crane moved to fill the gap at right-back and Beck dropped to left-back but it wasn’t long before Faversham were on the attack.

Justin Ascheri, who was to be a thorn in the Rocks’ side all night, saw a sixth-minute shot turned around the post by Craig Stoner, who was to be the visitors’ man of the match.

Luchford opened the scoring on 14 minutes, latching on to a through-ball and shooting past Stoner from the edge of the box for a deserved lead.

Ben Johnson rattled the crossbar after controlling a cross-field pass from Kane Wills on 19 minutes but soon the hosts did the same at the other end, Ascheri’s shot taking a deflection off Beck and striking Stoner’s bar.

Ascheri forced a good save from Stoner before Luchford curled home number two from the edge of the area.

Stoner saved again from Ascheri but Jason Prior was close to pulling one when a piledriver hit the bar and bounced down pretty much on the line, with the Bognor players claiming it had crossed the line.

Damien Able thought he had made it 3-0 to Faversham on 40 minutes but his effort hit the post and was cleared.

It was 3-0 two minutes later, though, when Dave Skelton drilled a 20-yarder past Stoner.

And it could even have been 4-0 but Stoner saved a shot and Tim Bond cleared one off the line.

Dan Royce replaced Michael Birmingham for the second half.

Able should have got the fourth but didn’t live up to his name after Tom Hickman’s pass and Stoner and Crane got it away.

Matt Wood came on for Prior and was quickly surging into the hosts’ box but failing to test Overland.

Able’s shot got stuck in the mud almost on the goalline midway through the second half before Crane cleared, but a fourth goal was inevitable and it came on 74 minutes when Beck - under no pressure - gifted possession to Hickman, who lobbed Stoner with ease.

Sub Dave Bathgate should have netted the fifth but blazed over from ten yards and in the dying moments. Crane gave the ball away and Ascheri converted despite Stoner’s valiant attempt to save - but the goal was ruled out, even if no-one was too sure why.

Crane almost scored a consolation but it simply wasn’t the Rocks’ night.

Now the big challenge for Jamie Howell and Darin Killpartrick is to raise morale in the dressing room in time for Saturday’s home tussle with leaders Met Policem, who could extend their lead over the Rocks to five points if they win their game in hand on Wednesday night.

The Rocks will also be waiting to see when Ryan’s suspension - likely to be three games - will begin.

Jon Marzetti and Matt Whitehead are contenders to replace him in defence.

ROCKS: Stoner, Ryan, Crane, Wills, Axten, Bond, Beck, Birmingham (Royce), Prior (Wood), Nightingale (Whitehead), Johnson.

Att: 101 (about 40 supporting Rocks)

Report by Simon Cook and Steve Bone