REPORT & VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS: Rocks heroes are one tie from Wembley as Gulls are grounded
They've done it again. The Rocks have beaten another top non-league team to reach the semi-finals of the FA Trophy - and are now just one tie from Wembley.
And once again this was no lucky, streaky, backs-to-the-wall win - they matched and bettered Torquay, a team who have spent nearly 90 years in the Football League, and fully deserved the 1-0 win.
Snorre Nilsen got the goal four minutes into the second half and Torquay rarely looked like cancelling it out.
The final whistle brought rapturous scenes as the majority of the crowd of 1,821 celebrated with the Rocks players and backroom staff.
Now the club - and town - can look forward to a two-legged semi-final on March 12 and 19, which holds about as big a prize as any non-league club can have - a day at Wembley.
As expected, there was a massive crowd at Nyewood Lane for one of Bognor’s biggest games in their history.
The quarter-finals are two rounds further than Bognor have ever gone before and the teams went into the tie knowing the winners would be just a two-legged semi-final away from the final.
Torquay did all the early pressurising, with a series of long throws by player-boss Kevin Nicholson and corners causing a few alarms. Eventually a free-kick to the Rocks lifted the tension.
Craig Robson got a boot on the end of a long Dan Beck free-kick into the box but it was an easy save for keeper Daniel Lavercombe.
Bognor were playing into a blustery wind but they gradually grew into the game. Doug Tuck played Pearce in but Lavercombe was swiftly out to claim the loose ball.
A nice move down the left saw James Crane and Jason Prior play in Pearce - for a moment he looked to have beaten his man to go clear on the keeper, but the ball was too far ahead of him and Lavercombe gathered.
Andre Wright ran on to a pass through the middle and looked well-set to score but his shot was weak and straight at Smith on 23 minutes. Bognor broke and won a corner but it was poor from Beck and cleared by the near-post defender.
Robson was close with a far-post header from a corner which was blocked on the line.
The match hit a bit of a scarppy pitch with the wind making it difficult for both sides to play passes of any distance.
Parsons had half a chance after being played clear in the inside-right channel but was closed down by a defender and shot well wide.
A superb leaping save by Smith kept it goalless on 36 minutes as Allen’s shot from 15 yards looked destined for the top corner. Then Smith and his defenders did superbly to block Wright on the rebound.
Then the excitement switched to the other end and a spell of pressure which first saw Parsons and Nilsen fail to capitalise on good positions and ended with Prior squeezing the ball past Lavercombe from close range - but he could only watch as it rolled inches wide of the far post.
Four minutes from the break the Rocks thought they were ahead when Parsons got the final touch on a scramble in the six-yard box following Lavercombe’s save from Crane’s low shot - but after a delay, it was ruled out for handball.
It was a quiet start to the second half with a long ball from Beck that was just too strong for Pearce’s run the best either side could muster in the opening minutes.
But four minutes into the half, the huge crowd were jubilant as Nilsen headed the Rocks in front. Tuck made the goal with a direct run through the middle. He laid it off to Pearce, who took a touch to fool his marker then curled a shot towards the top corner. It came back off the crossbar but Nilsen was there to head in from a couple of yards out.
Bognor had the bit between their teeth and Davies sensed glory with a run and long-range shot but it drifted wide.
Bognor were pressing well and still enjoying their share of possession. Parsons found space for a cross from the right that Lavercombe had to deal with at his near post.
Parsons’ long cross to the far post was just right for Prior but his looping header, on target, was comfortably claimed by Lavercombe.
A quick Torquay free kick 20 yards out saw Durrell Berry played into a good position but his low ball into the danger area was weak and easily cleared.
Pearce picked up a long pass on the right and cut inside to fire a left-footer from 25 yards inches wide.
Courtney Richards came as close as Torquay had all half with a run into the box and low bouncing shot that Smith had to get down to at his near post to push behind for a corner.
Sub Geering was booked for a heavy tackle on Prior as Connor Tighe replaced Pearce.
The officials added on three minutes but Torquay couldn’t muster a final spell of pressure and there were no scares as the hosts held out with a bit to spare.
The players did a full lap of honour as the crowd showed their appreciation and afterwards both Jamie Howell and Jason Prior spoke of their pride that the Rocks had deserved to win and of the confidence the team could take into the semi-finals.
Roll on Monday - when Grimsby, Nantwich and Gateshead or FC Halifax join Bognor in the semi-final draw - and roll on the semi-finals.
Rocks: G Smith, Davies, Crane, Tuck, El-Abd, Robson, Nilsen, Beck, Prior, Pearce, Parsons. Subs: Rutherford, Green, Charman, Field, Tighe.
Torquay: Lavercombe, Berry, N Smith, McDonald, Nicholson, Racchi, Richards, Butler, Rees, Wright, Allen. Subs: Cordery, Geohaghon, Gerring, Hancox, Verma.
Ref: John Busby (Wallingford)
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