Sport highlights of 2019: Bognor lift the Sussex Senior Cup
It's part two of our look back at local sporting highlights of 2019, and today we recall the famous night when the Rocks won their first trophy for 32 years, lifting the Sussex Senior Cup at the Amex.
See the team, led by skipper Harvey Whyte, celebrate and lift the cup in the video above and read below how we reported on their success.
Could the Rocks retain the trophy in 2020 perhaps...?
* Bognor Regis Town have lifted the Sussex Senior Cup for the first time in 32 years. Doug Tuck struck an extra-time winner to send the Bognor fans wild and end a long, hard season on a high.
It was tough on Burgess Hill, who had battled back well and pushed Bognor all the way after going behind in the fourth minute.
It was a final between two teams desperate to end difficult seasons with silverware. Burgess Hill have just been relegated from the Bostik premier while Bognor finished 14th in the same division having looked good bets for a play-off place until a disappointing final few weeks of the season.
There was a healthy number of fans from both clubs in the West Stand at the Amex on a fine evening for football. Bognor last won the county cup in 1987 – Burgess Hill in 1886 – so it was easy to see why this was to be a keenly fought contest.
Bognor had three teenagers in their side – full-back Josh McCormick, midfielder Emmett Dunn, who joined on dual terms from Chichester City just a few weeks ago, and Pompey forward Brad Lethbridge. Hillians were captained by ex-Rocks favourite Dan Beck and were pleased to be able to include QPR loanee Joe Felix in their starting line-up after doubts as to whether he would be available.
There was a scare for Burgess Hill in the first few seconds when Brad Lethbridge burst into the box and weaved his way to the byline before being crowded out. At the other end a poor clearance gave Felix his first chance to run at the Rocks defence but his cross evaded everyone.
Then still with only two minutes gone Lethbridge bore down on goal but tried a pass when a shot from a tight angle might have been better. And soon another Bognor youngster, Dunn, was in with a sniff of goal in the box but fired into the side netting from close in. Just four minutes in the Rocks were ahead through Jimmy Wild and it was his strike partner Jimmy Muitt's peristence that set it up. Muitt chased a long ball and forced a defender into a short backpass – Wild anticipated it well and nipped it to take the ball round keeper Josh James and score, despite a defender's attempt to block it on the line.
Muitt and Wild both had half-chances on eight minutes following a nice cross from the left by Ashton Leigh. McCormick was next to threaten for Bognor, surging into the box down the right to get on the end of a pass and hitting a firm shot that James did well to beat away. Then Dunn threaded a pass through to Muitt but he hurried his shot and it went well wide.
Wild should have doubled his and Bognor's lead on 17 minutes but he didn't connect properly with a ball in from Lethbridge, who was terrorising Hillians down the Rocks left. After such a frenetic start it was inevitable that the pace would slow – and when it did Burgess Hill took the chance to enjoy some possession, though without looking like they would get past the Rocks defence.
Muitt missed a golden chance to make it 2-0 when he seized on a loose pass and ran on and rounded the keeper, only to skew his shot wide of an open goal. The first yellow card of the night went to Tolulope Jonah for bringing down Wild as he threatened to run clear on goal 40 yards out. Felix earned a lecture from the referee for a foul on Lethbridge on halfway.
A dangerous Burgess Hill free-kick swung in by Aaron Smith-Joseph was punched clear by Dan Lincoln, leading to a Rocks attack that ended with Muitt's low shot being held by James, But the Hillians were growing in confidence and beginning to put Bognor under heavier pressure and one low ball in from the left had to be desperately hacked clear. The offside flag denied Bognor a couple of times when it looked like they would break through.
The Rocks were appealing for a penalty when McCormick's run into the box was halted – but that was not given, and nor was anything for a claimed-for handball in the other box a minute later as Hillians threatened. Burgess Hill were on level terms three minutes before the break through Ross Murdoch, who tapped in from Pat Harding's square pass after Lincoln had only been able to push out a lovely long-range shot by Beck.
Now it was Burgess Hill who had their tails up and Smith-Joseph curled a shot into a grateful Lincoln's arms. HT 1-1
It was a slow start to the second half – certainly in contrast to the first half – although there was almost an opening at either end, first when Harding's ball almost fell to Murdoch in a good position, then when Muitt drove into the area and pulled the back from the byline. But both openings went begging.
Play was held up for Keaton Wood to be attended after taking a knock to the face – he had to come to the sidelines for a cut to be tended. When it restarted Lethbridge found space for a volley that flew not too far wide. But the game was very different to the open, attacking one we'd seen before the break.
Burgess Hill then conjured up a Bognor-style open goal miss when Smith-Joseph skipped past McCormick and pulled it back for Murdoch, who couldn't miss from six yards – but did. Wood was booked for a cynical challenge that stopped Felix running clear from a loose Bognor pass. The Rocks then enjoyed a better spell led by Whyte and Muitt and suddenly it was the Hillians having to defend.
Field headed over a Muitt free-kick when he was unmarked ten yards out. Then at the other end Felix ran clear and his fierce left-footed effort drew Lincoln's best save of the night so far. Both sides made a change as the Bognor fans belted out the songs from the stand. For Hill, Jack Malleret replaced scorer Murdoch and for the Rocks, Leon Maloney replaced scorer Wild.
Immediately Lethbridge found himself through on goal but from just outside the box he blazed a shot high and wide. Lethbridge missed another good chance when a cross from Muitt found him at the far post. He did the right thing to head it back past James but it was too high. Then Lethbridge raced away again with only James to beat – but the result was the same, a shot wildly over the bar.
Burgess Hill also pressed for a late, late winner but a Michael Wilson corner came to nothing. FT 90 mins 1-1
Doug Tuck came on for Dunn at the start of the extra 30 and first to threaten were Bognor as Ashton Leigh got forward for a well-struck shot that took a deflection and had to be brilliantly turned away by James. Then Felix streaked through after robbing Maloney to force a similarly-good save from Lincoln.
Felix was looking the most likely to get the next goal as another mazy run ended with a low shot that Lincoln had to get down to stop. Lethbridge and Muitt both had openings in another raid on the Hill goal but the defence got back in numbers. Smith-Joseph was replaced by Farrell Ryder.
Both teams were still going all out for the win and the Rocks got their noses back in front just before half-time in extra time through the unlikely goal source of Tuck, who sidefooted in after Lethbridge chased a long ball down the left and found him ten yards from goal with a neat pass. Tommy Scutt replaced Field for the start of the final 15 minutes – Field completing the set of Bognor centre-halves who have been crocked this season. Whyte dropped back to partner Wood in Field's absence. HT ET 2-1
Tom Cadman got forward from left-back for a volley that was only narrowly high and wide – then Rocks left-back Leigh might have set up Muitt for a third for Bognor but his attempted ball across the six-yard box was cut out. There were tied legs on both sides as the second period of extra-time progressed and you always felt a mistake could come at either end.
Rocks: Lincoln, McCormick, Leigh, Gilot, Field, Wood, Whyte, Dunn, Wild, Muitt, Lethbridge. Subs: Scutt, Maloney, Tuck, Humphries, Bain.
Ref: Steve Hughes