If you thought the Rocks’ visit to North London’s Harry Abrahams Stadium last season was a disaster, this one arguably eclipsed even that dismal show.
Last year they experienced two freak own goals inside a minute and a deserved red card a few minutes later leading to a comprehensive 3-0 defeat.
This season’s effort saw a defeat by the same margin, but brought arguably a worse team performance.
With the two loanees from Pompey unavailable, Bognor began with Daryl Wollers making a welcome first start after almost two years missing through his long-term hip injury. Lloyd Rowlatt and Dale Hayes earned a call-up from the under-18s to take their places on the bench.
In the first half Bognor had the assistance of a stiff breeze and played down the noticeable slope. The home side started strongly and almost scored in the opening minutes when Chris Winterton had to be alert to save on his line at the second attempt from the dangerous David Knight.
The Rocks looked dangerous whenever they broke, and with 15 minutes on the clock, Ollie Pearce, who was having a lively game, disposed Orlando Joao and fed the ball to Terry Dodd. Dodd beat his marker and let fly from 20 yards, but home keeper Bobby Smith saved well.
Wingate were also looking dangerous as they broke and Dan Sackman had to clear off his line following an impressive run by Knight. From the resulting corner Jack Read should have scored but his shot was well saved by Winterton.
Almost immediately Bognor broke forward and Dodd was unlucky not to score. His header clipped the bar following Pearce’s clever through ball to him.
Bognor then enjoyed a flurry of corners as Wingate struggled to clear the ball against the strengthening wind. Disappointingly the corners rarely threatened to bring an end result, and the home defenders had little trouble in clearing the box.
Jason Prior came close with a powerfully-hit free-kick from just outside the penalty area and Pearce’s snap-shot whistled past the post as the visitors kept the pressure up.
On the half-hour mark Bognor were lucky not to concede following an incredible scramble inside the six-yard box. Three different Rocks players somehow cleared the ball off the line within about ten seconds and Wingate had a strong case for a penalty as one appeared to use his arms but somehow the visitors survived.
Almost immediately Bognor scored themselves. Dodd disposed Joao and fed the ball to Pearce on the right. He took one touch to tee up his shot before rifling it into the far corner of the net.
Wingate almost levelled the scores on the stroke of half-time. A neat reverse pass put Read clean through but as Winterton came out Read dragged his shot wide of the post.
At the start of the second half Hayes replaced Wollers. Wollers had impressed in the first half but clearly needs to regain his match fitness and hopefully will be back raring to go next season.
The home side quickly adapted to having the benefit of the strong wind and attacked down both flanks. Within minutes of the restart fans were almost treated to a replica of last season’s first comical own goal, when Winterton dallied on the ball and under pressure tried to clear it across his goalmouth. The wind looked as if it was going to carry it in until James Crane hooked it clear at the last moment.
Despite considerable pressure from Wingate it was beginning to look as if Bognor could hold on to their winning margin... until a catastrophic 12-minute period.
The Rocks defence appeared very static as Wingate substitute Karl Oliyide won the ball and advanced without any meaningful challenge. His pass to Tommy Tejansie allowed him time to control the ball before firing it low and hard past Winterton into the corner of the net.
Almost from the kick off Bognor almost gave a second away, with a poor pass back that Winterton scrambled away for a corner.
By now Bognor appeared in complete disarray, and the dangerous Karl Oliyide and Rob Laney were surging forward almost at will. Whenever Bognor attacked, they seemed unable to regroup once they had given the ball away, leaving alarming gaps for the speedy home wide players to exploit.
It was no surprise when Wingate took the lead after 72 minutes. Bognor were given a free-kick just outside their own box. Instead of taking their time they took a quick free kick to Jake Thomson, who appeared unaware of the situation and Knight easily dispossessed him before firing confidently past Winterton. It was an awful goal to give away and worse was to come just four minutes later.
The home side were awarded a free kick on the right, and Knight lofted his ball into the box. The Bognor defence appeared statuesque as Bradley Hewitt rose unchallenged to score after 76 minutes.
Goals were now coming with dreadful regularity and four minutes later number four arrived. A rare Bognor attack broke down and again Wingate’s speed on the counter attack left Winterton dreadfully exposed. Ola Soganmu played a quick ball to Knight who was able to lob the ball over the stranded keeper.
By now most Bognor fans were praying for the final whistle to save any more punishment and embarrassment but there was still time for Wingate to come close to grabbing a fifth.
Although this was a meaningless end-of-season encounter, it was disappointing to see how rapidly Bognor fell apart and how little a number of players contributed throughout the match. A significantly-improved performance is required in the last match of the season at home to Margate on Saturday.
One glimmer of hope was provided by young Rowlatt. Promoted from the youth team, where he has performed with distinction all season, in the short period he was on the pitch he showed great determination and skill and he could well figure in Jamie Howell’s plans for next season.
BOGNOR: Winterton, Crane, Wollers (Hayes 45), Oatway (Lawson 85), Sackman, Robson, Green, Thomson, Prior, Dodd, Pearce (Rowlatt 72). Unused sub: Overton.