Rocks Review: Rocks 4 Whyteleafe 1

The Rocks put their destiny back in their own hands with an ultimately-convincing win over Whyteleafe.

Coupled with previous leaders Dulwich Hamlet’s 2-0 home reverse against Whitehawk, it put the Rocks back in top spot and in the driving seat for the final two games.

But it looks certain to go to the last weekend, as it did last year, with the Rocks and Whitehawk locked together on 84 points and Dulwich just a point behind.

What’s in the Rocks’ favour is their goal difference - it’s plus 65, compared to Whitehawk’s 49 and Dulwich’s 46.

Next weekend sees the Rocks host Walton & Hersham while Whitehawk go to Corinthian Casuals and Dulwich entertain Faversham.

The victory over Whyteleafe looked far from certain at half-time after the Surrey visitors had cancelled out Ashley Robinson’s opener - but Robinson and Terry Dodd tormented the Leafe after the break to make sure of three vital points.

The Rocks welcomed skipper Dan Beck back into the squad after two months out with a broken collarbone. He was on the bench but Hawks loanee Harvey Whyte was back in the starting line-up to replace rib injury victim Sonny Cobbs as they began the day two points behind Dulwich.

There was a quiet and perhaps nervous start to the game and the first chance of note fell to Whyteleafe when ex-Arsenal player Ian Selley curled a 20-yard free-kick towards the bottom corner, but Craig Stoner got down well to save.

The Rocks’ first threats came from Robinson, who got away down the left and crossed well with no-one to get on the end of it, and James Crane, who got free on the right but lofted a cross into keeper Paul Smith’s arms.

Omar Folkes had sight of Stoner’s goal on 21 minutes but shot wildly high and wide.

The Rocks broke the deadlock in the 23rd minute. The ball was played into the box on the Rocks right and held up by Dodd and when he laid it back to ROBINSON, he sidestepped a defender and fired an accurate shot low into the corner past Smith.

But the lead lasted just seven minutes as Whyteleafe fashioned an equaliser all too easily.

Jerson Dos Santos ran clear after the ball ran to him just inside the Rocks half, squared it to FOLKES, who nodded it on and poked it past Stoner despite the attentions of a defender.

The Rocks twice went close a minute before the break. First Ben Andrews’ shot in a goalmouth scramble from a corner was well saved - then Ben Johnson’s cross was half-volleyed inches wide by Robinson.

The Rocks took the upper hand with two goals in the first 16 minutes of the second half to settle the nerves which you could almost feel among a quieter-than-usual crowd of 465.

On 50 minutes Robinson ran at the defence, fed Johnson to his left on the overlap and the winger put a perfect ball across the box for DODD to convert from close range with the keeper nowhere.

Dodd was denied just before the hour mark after running on to Johnson’s long ball and being blocked by the keeper - who the Rocks felt had handled it outside the box in making the save, with lineswoman Lucy May indicating she felt the ball had hit the keeper’s chest.

But two minutes later, Dodd did get a decision as his surging run into and across the box was halted by defender Adam Broomhead’s foul. Broomhead was booked and ROBINSON strolled up to stoke the penalty past Smith to give the hosts a bit of breathing space.

Skipper Beck made his return to the team, replacing Whyte with 20 minutes to go. And within two minutes he had given the Rocks a fourth goal, arriving at the far post to smash in the loose ball after Dodd weaved past three men and saw his shot blocked among a sea of bodies.

Whyteleafe weren’t going to go down without a fight and Stoner twice had to be on his toes to deal with strikes at goal as the game entered the final 15 minutes.

As the clock ran down, Whyteleafe were reduced to ten men when Fred Fleming was red-carded for an awful lunging tackle on Robinson just inside his own half, with the two-goal hero needing extensive treatment. He got back to his feet but limped off rather gingerly at the end.

There was just time for the Rocks to have a couple of half-chances to make it five before the whistle went to signal the Rocks’ return to pole position.

Some of the gloss was taken off the afternoon afterwards when news came through that former Rocks favourite Jason Prior had suffered a broken leg playing for AFC Wimbledon against Crawley. Everyone at the club and at the Observer wishes him a speedy recovery.

Rocks: Stoner, Marzetti, Wollers, Crane, Axten, Andrews, Whyte, Wills, Robinson, Dodd, Johnson. Subs: Harper, Beck, Gonnella, Cobbs, Boyle

Whyteleafe: Smith, Clark, Duke, Fleming, Broomhead, Kaffo, Sessegnon, Selley, Folkes, Dos Santos, Abnett. Subs: Savage, Stripp, Palmer, Simpson, Borret.