ROCKS REVIEW: Worthing 2 Rocks 2

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Goals from Luke Nightingale and Jason Prior saw the Rocks twice battle back from a goal down to earn a point in an absorbing Ryman one south derby at Woodside Road.

John Lansdale put the Rebels ahead in front of a big crowd of 676 just before the half-hour mark with a curling 20-yard free-kick after a handball by Kane Wills.

Nightingale glanced a header beyond Tony Di Bernardo three minutes after the break from James Crane’s cross.

But the Rocks fell behind again on 64 minutes when a poor pass out by Craig Stoner led to a goal for Callum Saunders.

But with six minutes left ex-Rebel Ben Johnson’s cross was headed in by Prior.

It was a fair result on an afternoon of top-class entertainment.

The point puts the Rocks on 34 points after 16 games - nine points bnehind leaders Leatherhead with three games in hand. Next up it’s two home games in three days, Burgess Hill on New Year’s Day and Walton Casuals on Monday.

The Rocks started with Tim Bond, despite him having flu. Michael Birmingham began on the bench after calf problems.

Bognor got off to a flying start - after just 40 seconds they could have taken the lead. Zac Beda’s miscued back pass fell to Nightingale who had only the goalkeeper Tony Di-Bernardo to beat. He curled a shot around the stopper, but it swirled the wrong side of the right post.

Then Ben Johnson did well to pick up another loose pass to square to Dan Beck. The midfielder smashed his shot wide from just inside the area.

The Rocks benefited from a number of early corners, and on six minutes James Fraser’s right-sided kick fell to Johnson in the area, but he scuffed his shot.

But Worthing were dangerous on the counter attack. Tom Manton had a shot from 30 yards which flew wide.

On ten minutes Fraser swung in a another cross, this time towards Bond. The ball was blocked and there was a loud appeal for handball from the many Rocks fans behind the goal. The referee ignored the claims.

Beck cut a ball across the edge of the area and Nightingale got on the end of it to power a low shot straight at the goalkeeper.

Johnson curled in a free-kick from the left towards Bond, but his looped header was gathered by Di Bernardo.

Nightingale smashed in a shot which flashed just over the bar and wide. The Rebels replied when Tom Lawley crossed from the left and Saunders headed towards Terry Dodd but the striker couldn’t quite reach it inside the box as it rolled away for a goal kick.

In a good spell for the hosts Mike Huckett threaded the ball to Dodd, who curled a shot wide.

Steve Metcalf linked up with Huckett but his cross was cleared acrobatically by the impressive Perry Ryan, on loan from Pompey, in the visiting defence.

On 28 minutes the hosts were ahead. A shot was fired at goal from long distance, which hit the hand of Fraser outside the area. Lansdale stepped up to drive the free-kick low into the corner.

A further appeal for a penalty was dismissed after James Crane claimed he was brought down in the area as Rocks tried to gain an equaliser.

Crane got into a scuffle with Dodd but just a caution was given to both players.

On 37 minutes Beck lofted the ball high towards Prior but Beda managed to head back to his keeper, At the other end Manton swung a free-kick into the box. Stoner fumbled the ball but was awarded a free-kick after going down under pressure from the forwards.

In first-half stoppage time, Crane spun another cross from the right towards Prior but a defender scuffed his clearance to Johnson, who fired over from outside the area.

HT 1-0

Bognor needed fresh input and so Dan Royce and Birmingham came on for Kane Wills and Beck for the restart.

Saunders could have done better just seconds into the half when he blasted the ball into the side netting from a tight angle.

But Bognor remained positive and snatched the equaliser on 48 minutes. Good work from Crane ended with him curling in a wonderful cross for Nightingale, who glanced his header inside the far post.

Royce clashed with Metcalf in what appeared to be a fair challenge. The referee had given a free kick to the hosts, but arguments led to the player getting a yellow card.

But Royce got straight back into the thick of the action and managed to power in a deep cross for Prior. The tall striker’s header was feeble and easily gathered by Di Bernardo.

Worthing showed their superiority on the counter attack when Fraser’s corner was punched clear by the goalkeeper.

Dodd got himself into a great position to score. But with only Stoner to beat he blasted his left footed shot wide of the post.

Ryan tried from long distance moments later at the other end, but it was ambitious and the ball was caught by the goalkeeper.

A corner for the hosts fell to Lawley, who shot instantly. Only the reflexes of Stoner prevented a goal.

Nightingale, who had a decent game up front, created a bit of magic when he spun Metcalf with ease. But his low cross was stopped by Di-Bernado.

Then Fraser fed Prior, who had beaten his marker to shoot on his first touch, only for the keeper to save.

On 64 minutes, Stoner had to dash out of his goal to boot the ball clear before Dodd could reach it.

But within a minute, a nervy moment led to Stoner passing straight to Saunders. The right-sided player pounced on the opportunity to fire into the bottom corner to give the hosts the lead again.

Bognor replied with some fast attacking football. Johnson curled in a cross from the left to Prior, who couldn’t convert. Royce followed up but shot wide of the near post.

Prior did well to outwit his defender on the right to chip a cross on to the head of Nightingale but somehow he directed his effort over the bar.

It seemed like it was going to be one of those frustrating days when a free-kick taken by Johnson was headed right across the area by Bond but no other Bognor player was there to get on the end of it.

The Rocks should have done better with 15 minutes left when Matt Whitehead sped down the left to drive the ball to Nightingale. The veteran striker spun his marker with his first touch but after finding himself in space he rushed his shot and the ball rolled wide of the right post.

But the visitors drew level on 84 minutes. Johnson did superbly to hold up the ball on the left to pinpoint a cross on to the head of Prior who made no mistake in scoring in the heart of the box.

From then on the game could have gone either way. Johnson and Dodd both received yellow cardsas both teams tried for the winner.

Four minutes of stoppage time couldn’t find a winner.

ROCKS: Stoner, Crane, Whitehead, Fraser, Ryan, Bond, Beck (Royce HT (Wood 88)), Wills (Birmingham HT), Prior, Nightingale, Johnson. Unused Subs: Marzetti, Marshall.

MoM: Nightingale

* In the county league division-one derby at Pagham, Selsey won 1-0 thanks to a second-half Graham Bush penalty. The Blues missed an earlier penalty and had Alun Morey sent off.

It was one of only five Sussex League games to survive the weather. Chichester, Midhurst, Bosham and Sidlesham were all left kicking their heels because of frozen pitches despite the rise in temperatures.