Battling Rocks hold Pompey to 1-1 friendly draw

The sun beats down on Nyewood Lane as the Rocks take on Pompey / Picture by Tommy McMillan

The sun beats down on Nyewood Lane as the Rocks take on Pompey / Picture by Tommy McMillan

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THE ROCKS set out to give Pompey a stiff pre-season test - and they did exactly that as they held their League Two hosts to a draw.

It was highly-creditable performance and result from Jamie Howell’s Ryman premier outfit, who battled back after conceding an early Matt Tubbs and were good value for ending all square.

Teenager Alfie Rutherford, a potential recruit from Moneyfields, grabbed the Bognor equaliser early in the second half after forcing Pompey skipper Paul Robinson into a mistake as they both chased a long ball.

Pompey had the lion’s share of the chances and looked like they’d win comfortably, but the longer the game went on, the more confident Bognor became as they came back at Paul Cook’s side - who ended the night fretting about a knee injury picked up by Gary Roberts.

It was the third year in a row Pompey had visited Nyewood Lane for a pre-season friendly - part of the new-found arrangement between the clubs which will also see some of the Blues’ young prospects made available to the Rocks throughout the season.

The sun was out and a decent-sized crowd were there to enjoy the action, with plenty of Pompey shirts dotted around the ground.

Bognor had new signings Sami El-Abd and Jason Prior in a full-strength line-up while the Pompey team was also strong - including many of the new recruits already brought in by Paul Cook, such as Enda Stevens, Michael Doyle and Roberts.

An unusual kick-off routine by Pompey saw Roberts attempt a shot at goal from the centre-spot but it was very well wide.

Right-back Ben Davies won Pompey the first corner in the second minute after nice play by Kyle Bennett, but it was quickly cleared.

Pompey were the threatening team early on with Roberts looking lively down the right and asking plenty of questions of the Rocks defence.

Roberts was close to the opening goal in the sixth minute but saw a 25-yard left-footed effort deflected wide.

Christian Burgess met the corner with a firm header but it was comfortable for Alex Bass, playing on the opposite side to the one he represented in the same fixture last year.

It was no real surprise when Pompey got the opener and it was an easy one for Tubbs, who just had to sidefoot into an open goal after Enda Stevens unselfishly set him up with a square pass after bursting down the left and into the box.

Tubbs was denied a second three minutes later by Craig Robson’s desperate clearance after a cross was nodded down into the striker’s path.

Yet another chance fell to Tubbs when he beat Bass to a long ball on the corner of the box but he couldn’t get any strength on the shot and Robson was back to mop up.

Trialist Gareth Evans set up Roberts for a lofted shot at goal but Bass was alert to the danger.

Bognor were doing a reasonable containing job in the face of constant Pompey attacks but were still struggling to get hold of too much of the ball themselves.

Much of Pompey’s best forward play involved the full-backs Davies and Stevens.

Bognor’s first effort at goal came from a far-post volley by captain Prior. It was well struck but too high.

Bognor were growing in confidence and after Terry Dodd was crowded out 20 yards from goal, the loose ball fell to Stuart Green, who caught it perfectly on the half-volley to send a shot crashing against the bar with Paul Jones beaten.

Another home attack by Alex Parsons down the right was ended by a firm bit of defending by Stevens.

Roberts was forced off for treatment towards the end of the half after an innocuous-looking tussle for possession in midfield.

HT 0-1

Rutherford - son of local football stalwart Miles - came on for Bognor at the start of the second half in place of Dodd. There was also a change of home keeper as trialist stopper Niall Beazley, from Horndean, took Bass’ place. A third Rocks sub saw Ed Sanders replace Jake Thomson.

It was a fairly quiet start to the second half with the sides snuffing out one another.

Ollie Pearce and Dan Beck replaced Parsons and Doug Tuck as Jamie Howell continued to make changes.

The new-look hosts grabbed the equaliser on 56 minutes. Pompey skipper Robinson looked certain to guide a bouncing ball back to Paul Jones but sub Rutherford harried him and robbed him just outside the area, before controlling the ball and slotting low past Jones, to the delight of the home fans.

Immediately Evans had a chance to restore the Blues’ lead but he didn’t get a proper connection on a free header from a cross from the right.

Pompey were beginning to build some momentum again and Doyle sent a low shot only just wide of the post, before Evans sent an effort whistling narrowly wide.

On 65 minutes Pompey sub Adam McGurk cut in from the right and curled a low shot that Beasley got down to keep out.

Blues scorer Tubbs was replaced by Theo Robinson, another Pompey trialist.

Evans wasted another good opportunity, heading over from a Davies cross into the penalty spot.

It was sub time again as Jamie Horncastle replaced Wollers, who is still finding his way back to full match sharpness after a long-term hip injury.

Davies whipped a 20-yard shot just beyond Beazley’s post after Dan Beck’s sliding tackle to win a throw was deemed illegal.

Pompey were back on the attack as the game entered its final ten minutes, Doyle bringing a fine save out of Beazley and then Davies shooting over.

Lloyd Rowlatt, another of the Rocks’ young pretenders to a first-team place, came on for Prior.

Then it was the Rocks’ turn to threaten a winner. James Crane beat the offside trap down the left and forced Burgess to hoof clear his cross for a corner.

Robinson was spared some blushes when he somehow missed a two-yard header - after Beazley grabbed the ball, an offside flag was spotted.

At the other end, Beck belted a shot goalwards after Pearce and Rutherford set him up but it was well over Jones’ bar.

Yet more substitutions disrupted the flow of the final few minutes, with Pompey boss Cook taking the chance to rest some of his troops who had been on since the start.

The Rocks wanted to win it and Green charged down the right but just failed to find Rutherford with the cut-back.

That was how it ended and although the Rocks will have been much the happier camp with the result, Pompey will know there is a fair time left for them to get things right before the League Two kick-off.

Rocks: Bass, Crane, Wollers, Tuck, El-Abd, Robson, Green, Thomson, Prior (capt), Dodd, Parsons. Subs: Beck, Rowlatt, Sanders, Rutherford, Pearce, Horncastle.

Pompey: Jones, Davies, Evans, Stevens, P Robinson (capt), Burgess, Atangana, Doyle, Tubbs, Bennett, Roberts. Subs: Poke, Barton, T Robinson, Hassan, Nilsen, Field, Haunstrop.

Ref: Ashley Slaughter

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