Rocks Review: Corinthian Casuals 3 Rocks 1

The Rocks’ proud unbeaten start to the season is over after a disastrous defensive performance in the first half gifted the points to Corinthian Casuals.

They were 3-1 down by the break and although it was the Rocks who did most of the pressing in the second half, they could scarcely complain about the end result.

The defeat - on a night when leaders Dulwich Hamlet won again, beating Merstham 3-1 at home - leaves the Rocks three points off top spot and with a gaggle of clubs only a point or two behind them and with a game in hand.

It was a former Rock, Saheed Sankoh, who started the rot when he had an easy job of heading in a right-sided cross as the visitors’ defence watched.

By then Terry Dodd had already threatened for the Rocks, lifting a shot over the bar.

The goal didn’t seem to deter the Rocks at first and a lovely move involving Ben Johnson and James Crane led to Dodd’s shot being well saved by Danny Bracken.

Casuals doubled their lead on 21 minutes and it was one to forget for Craig Stoner. Jason Turley cut into the area and shot from 15 yards; it appeared to be gathered by Stoner only for the stopper to spill it at the feet of Steve Goddard, who had the simple task of tapping it home.

Jason Prior got the Rocks back in it ten minutes from the break, smashing home from eight yards after Dodd and Crane combined down the left.

Within minutes Johnson ought to have made it 2-2 but after outpacing his marker down the left and cutting inside and beating two more players, he fluffed his shot.

Thirty seconds later the Rocks paid the price for that missed chance by conceding a third. This time Goddard took advantage of slack defending for a clear run at goal, rounding Stoner and slotting into the empty net.

There were some heated words heard from the away dressing room at the break and two changes were made for the second half, Luke Nightingale and Matt Whitehead replacing Chris Breach and Jon Marzetti.

Immediately Kane Wills’ 25-yard shot missed by a whisker and then Johnson beat four men before shooting wide.

Dan Beck headed off the line and Kane Sergeant went close, while Nightingale and Prior each went close to a second goal for the Rocks.

Lewis Ide replaced Dodd and looked lively as the Rocks chased the game.

Sankoh almost got a fourth for Casuals with an injury-time piledriver which was well saved by Stoner.

This was the Rocks’ first league defeat since March 19 - a record they can still be proud of despite the meek way they ended their run here.

Now they must regroup for two more tough games - an FA Trophy clash with Mangotsfield at Nyewood Lane on Saturday and, provided that doesn’t require a replay, a league visit to Ramsgate next Tuesday.

ROCKS: Stoner, Marzetti (Whitehead), Crane, Breach (Nightingale), Axten, Bond, Beck, Wills, Prior, Dodd (Ide), Johnson. Subs not used: Wollers, Blatchford.

SIMON COOK & STEVE BONE

Get all the reaction and news from the Lane in the Observer - out on Thursday