ROCKS REVIEW: Rocks 4 Horsham YMCA 1
Three second-half goals saw the Rocks beat Horsham YMCA and move fourth in the table '“ after their customary slow start to a home match.
Ex-Rock Scott Kirkwood put away a fifth-minute penalty after Tim Bond handled but the hosts were patient and took the points thanks to goals from Luke Nightingale, Matt Wood, Jason Prior and Dean Maynard.
The Rocks, who started the day in fifth place, were without injured pair Stuart Axten (anke) and Michael Birmingham (calf) but welcomed utility man Dan Beck back for another spell at Nyewood Lane – this his fourth debut. Dan Royce was also absent so Wood started on the right.
Beck started at left-back, where he has played before, and his first involvement was to send skipper Nightingale chasing a high ball, but YMCA keeper Conor Gough was first to it.
The Rocks are notoriously-slow starters at home and it was the same story here. A cross from the right hit Bond’s hand as he tried to clear the danger and Kirkwood put away the penalty with conviction.
Horsham should have been two up from a quick break on 11 minutes. Joey Collenijn’s shot was pushed into the path of Tony Reid and somehow his shot towards an almost-empty net was kept out by a combination of two defenders and the woodwork. It was a real let-off for the Rocks.
They almost responded with an equaliser when Jason Prior’s header from Bond’s flick-on following a free-kick went just wide of Gough’s post.
Another chance for the Rocks came when Nightingale chased a backpass and the keeper’s clearance hit him and went just wide.
It wasn’t long before the leveller came courtesy of Nightingale, who finished smartly when Ben Johnson’s scuffed shot from the edge of the box after a corner wasn’t cleared fell at the feet of the captain 12 yards out.
The Rocks had found their feet now and James Fraser had a volley cleared off the line while James Crane had a header blocked.
Johnson was in on goal in the 27th minute. His shot as he closed in on Gough beat the keeper but rolled just wide of the far post.
Nightingale and Prior both went close as the Rocks finally imposed their authority on the bottom-placed visitors.
Prior was almost in for the Rocks’ second but in stretching to reach a through-ball he and keeper Gough were both injured. Happily both were okay after treatment, though Gough looked to have come off the worst.
Johnson teed up Nightingale for a shot on the edge of the box but the chance ran away from him on 37 minutes. Then Prior’s delicate chip into the danger area was just out of reach of both Nightingale and Johnson.
As the one-way traffic continued, Prior played in Fraser inside the area but the master of the curling finish hit it straight at Gough.
Beck might have been punished for a loose pass deep inside his own half that gifted possession to Kirkwood but he shot wide.
Then Fraser curled a shot wide of the far post with only the keeper to beat – only to see he was offside anyway.
In first-half injury time, YMCA centre-half Glen Woodburn was booked for nasty tackle from behind on Prior. The free-kick was hit by Johnson but blocked by the wall.
On a horribly cold afternoon, the attendance was revealed as 377 – the Rocks’ highest home league attendance of the season to date, a great effort from a hardy band of fans.
The Rocks ought to have been in the lead with the number of chances and amount of possession they’d had, but there was still hard work ahead of them as they tried to break down YMCA.
The visitors had their moments at the start of the second period but Matt Wood headed the Rocks into a 2-1 lead on 54 minutes. Johnson was involved, as he had been in most of the Rocks’ best play, as he beat two men down the left and sent over a high cross to the far post, where Wood rose superbly to thunder in a header.
Fraser fancied getting on the scoresheet for the third Saturday in four but his 25-yard shot was a little high and wide.
Bognor made their first change on 59 minutes, with scorer Wood surprisingly the man to give way to Maynard, who, despite a lack of regular starts, was still second top scorer in the league for the Rocks with five goals.
Prior was close to a cheeky third but his backheeled flick from Fraser’s right-wing ball in trickled wide of Gough’s far post with the keeper watching.
Soon Prior’s shot was almost deflected over Gough by Maynard but the keeper caught it just beneath the bar.
YMCA were by no means out of it, though, as was proved by two good chances spurned by Reid when he had only Stoner to beat.
The Rocks had a golden chance to wrap it up on 71 minutes with Fraser bombing forward and Nightingale free on the edge of the bo, but the midfielder over-hit the pass.
It mattered little a minute later, though, when Fraser did get a pass right, finding Maynard free on the right to cross for Prior, who rifled in his tenth league goal of the campaign.
Prior could have returned the favour with 14 minutes left but overhit a cross from the left when Maynard was unmarked at the far post.
Wills made the wrong choice when starting a move he could have finished on 78 minutes. He picked the ball up from Stoner, ran on and was clean through when he took Maynard’s return pass – but chose to square for Nightingale and saw a defender intercept.
When Horsham fluffed the clearance and Nightingale was fouled just outside the D, Fraser curled the free-kick on to the clubhouse roof.
It was 4-1 on 79 minutes with a simple finish from ten yards from Maynard after a neat passing move through the middle.
Both sides then made a change. Charlie Marshall replaced Prior and for YMCA, Spencer Sachies came on for Collenijn.
Marshall almost became the day’s second scoring sub but despite beating Gough in an aerial challenge he saw his header come off the bar and fall to safety.
There was a training-session feel to the end of the game with Rocks pouring forward time and time again in search of a fifth.
Johnson was deservedly named man of the match by sponsor Jean Martin.
The Rocks were guilty of trying to walk in a fifth as the game entered stoppage time, twice overegging things outside the box when someone ought to have tried a shot.
Rocks: Stoner, Crane, Beck, Fraser, Marzetti, Bond, Wills, Wood, Prior, Nightingale, Johnson. Subs: Maynard, Marshall, Pointing.
YMCA: Gough, B Bowra, S Bowra, Cheadle, Woodburn, Harvey, Brewer, Kirkwood, Reid, Collenijn, Mercer. Subs: Brunn, Gordon, Sachies, Douglas, Fox.
Report by Steve Bone