ROCKS REVIEW: Rocks 1 Met Police 0

The Rocks are celebrating their best result of the season after Ben Johnson’s goal sent Ryman one south leaders Met Police to only their third league defeat in front of the division’s largest crowd of the campaign.

It was first-versus-third at a well-populated Nyewood Lane, with the Rocks looking to get back on track against the leaders following their 4-0 defeat at Faversham in midweek.

And Johnson’s 15th-minute finish, the highlight of his man-of-the-match performance, was enough to clinch a pricesless three points and leave the Rocks just two points behind the Met at the top of the table.

The Rocks were unchanged, with in-form strike pair Luke Nightingale and Jason Prior both fine to play after recent hamstring and groin niggles.

The Met were the first team to get a ball into the six-yard box but Michael Birmingham comfortably cleared right-back Steve Noakes’ long throw in the fourth minute.

The Rocks were temporarily down to ten men when Stuart Axten needed treatment for a bleeding nose.

In the seventh minute, Jason Prior’s low shot from 18 yards forced Met keeper Dave Smalley into a diving save.

Bognor were getting plenty of balls into the visitors’ box but the defence were winning most of the aerial battles.

Phil Johns’ 30-yard drive at the other end wasn’t far wide of Craig Stoner’s post.

A neat Rocks move was ruined when Dan Beck skewed an attempted cross out for a goal kick when he was played in by James Crane on the left.

The Rocks took the lead on 15 minutes when Johnson sprinted on to Luke Nightingale’s flick from Crane’s pass, rounded the keeper and sidefooted into the empty net – before celebrating in great style with a karate kick on the corner flag.

The Rocks’ tails were up and they were awarded a free-kick 30 yards out for a handball. Birmingham hit it cleanly enough but it was an easy take for Smalley.

Crane was next to put the Met under pressure but his cross from the left touchline was plucked from the air by Smalley.

Then Nightingale was away down the inside right channel and saw his fierce shot palmed away by the busy keeper.

The home side’s lead was preserved by a great save by Stoner in a goalmouth scramble.

The Police were forced into a change on 28 minutes, bringing on Nathan Simpson for Steve Sutherland.

It was turning into a physical encounter but the Rocks weren’t getting many of the decisions going their way.

A good build-up down the right ended in a dangerous-looking cross by Kane Wills, but the keeper got there before Prior or Nightingale.

A free-kick given for no-one knew what on the Met Police right caused Stoner to punch clear. The Rocks were defending well, throwing themelves in the way of any shot at goal.

Johnson almost set up a second goal on 40 minutes, swinging a lovely cross to the far post which was only just too high for Nightingale.

Then Axten’s towering header from a Johnson corner was goalbound until a defender’s boot hacked it away.

There was a flashpoint right on half-time. As Craig Watkins ran through, beating the offside flag but shooting wide, play was called back for an off-the-ball incident involving the Met’s Tommy Moorhouse and Dan Beck. It was unclear quite what had gone on but both were booked.

That led to an ugly melee as the players left the pitch for half-time, with most of the 22 players and others from both camps getting involved in angry confrontations.

There was pushing and shoving and the scenes carried on as the players headed for the dressing room. There were suggestions a punch was thrown at Birmingham and an elbow raised at Prior.

The referee - who had a ddfficult afternoon from start to finish - and linesmen were unable to control things.

It appeared one of the Met subs was sent to the stands following the interval flare-up. He was in the stand for the second half – but even that caused an argument between the stewards and the Met manager over where he should sit.

The task for the Rocks in the second half was to concentrate on the football and try to keep their lead intact.

The visitors’ second substitution saw Billy Marshall come on for Shawn Beveney.

There was some early pressure from the league leaders that meant Stoner to be on his toes a couple of times but the first real chance of the second period fell to the Rocks, as Axten headed narrowly wide from Johnson’s free-kick after the winger had been fouled just outside the area.

They went close again when Nightingale just failed to get on the end of a Johnson knock-down from Wills’ cross from the right.

Met were far from out of it, as John proved with a low drive that Stoner dived to hold.

Johnson broke and cut inside for a curling effort that ended up drifting well wide.

The crowd, despite only a tiny number of away fans, was revealed as a staggering 681 – the biggest attendance in the division all season, narrowly beating the number who saw the Rocks in action at Worthing on Boxing Day.

The Met made their final change on 61 minutes as Eddie Smith replaced Moorhouse.

A second goal was needed to settle the home fans’ nerves and Johnson almost set it up for Nightingale but his teasing cross was shepherded out by a defender. Then Birmingham curled a free-kick a few inches wide with Smalley struggling to get across to it.

The Rocks were again close to a second when Crane lashed a shot over the bar after Wills’ intelligent cut-back to him on the penalty spot. Then another mazy run from Johnson ended with an overhit cross.

With 14 minutes left, Perry Ryan’s superb cross from the right corner flag just eluded Nightingale.

On 79 minutes Stoner earned his money with a brilliant block from Watkins’ shot from ten yards, then saved the Rocks again by turning over Eddie Smith’s header at the near post from a corner.

The first Rocks change came on 80 minutes when Axten hobbled off to have his place taken by Jon Marzetti. Ryan switched to the centre of defence with Marzetti going to right-back.

James Fraser made his injury comeback when he replaced Birmingham with five minutes of normal time to go.

Nightingale looked destined to wrap up the win when he controlled a ball into the box and beat Smalley with his half-volley but it was headed off the line by sub Simpson.

Johnson was rightfully named man of the match by the sponsor, solicitor George Ide.

The referee, from somewhere, found four minutes to add on.

Wills was booked after the referee judged he had led with his elbow challenging for a high ball.

It should have been two in the final minute of stoppage time. Johnson was tripped in the box after robbing a defender and dancing across the edge of the area but Nightingale’s spot-kick was well saved by Smalley.

But as soon as the Met launched the ball forward again, the final whistle blew - sparking joyous scenes around Nyewood Lane.

Rocks: Stoner, Ryan, Crane, Wills, Axten, Bond, Beck, Birmingham, Prior, Nightingale, Johnson. Subs: Marzetti, Royce, Fraser, Turner, Wood.

Met Police: Smalley, Noakes, Bourne, Sutherland, Humphrey, Lampton, Beveney, T Smith, Watkins, Moorhouse, John. Subs: Simpson, Marshall, E Smith, Cottee, Clarke.

The Rocks are next in action on Tuesday night at Chipstead. We will have a report on this website soon after the final whistle.

Report by Steve Bone