A Bognor side again down to the bare bones contributed to a very entertaining game at Harrow.
The hosts needed a win to be sure of avoiding relegation and the Rocks, already safe in mid-table, probably wanted to avoid any more injuries before Saturday’s last league match at Hampton & Richmond and the Sussex Senior Cup final on May 18.
Apart from reserve goalkeeper Tom Boyle, Bognor had only two fit substitutes, and one of these was 41-year-old head coach Darin Killpartrick. Dabba was forced into action for the last ten minutes and almost set up a late equaliser.
The match started in dramatic fashion with an excellent goal after just four minutes from Ollie Pearce.
A flowing move was begun by Kane Wills and involved Lewis Stockford before Simon Woods found Pearce out wide on the right. He beat a defender and rifled an unstoppable shot past David Gregory from an acute angle.
Unfortunately, as at Met Police last week, Bognor failed to capitalise on an early lead. Harrow immediately laid siege on the Bognor goal and Sam Pearce earned an early caution for a clear foul as the Rocks defended at all costs.
Harrow’s Jordan Lawal was a handful on the right wing and was instrumental in feeding Jordan Berry, who equalised with a low drive from the edge of the six-yard box after 16 minutes.
Bognor should have gone ahead again from the restart. Again Ollie Pearce beat the full-back and cut the ball back to Terry Dodd, unmarked on the penalty spot. With time to pick his shot, Terry hesitated and his weak effort was easily saved by
Craig Stoner saved well from Berry an excellent tackle by Daryl Wollers denied Saheed Sankoh as he seemed sure to score. Harrow
continued to press and again Stoner defied Berry.
Bognor broke to re-take the lead. Another excellent passing move involving Ollie Pearce and Dodd allowed Woods to claim his first goal for Bognor when he slid the ball in from close range. Woods was substituted before the restart with young Connor Cody coming on.
Woods had been ill leading up to the match and it was only the lack of available alternatives that had forced him to begin the match.
A third goal almost arrived for Bognor just before the break. A Wills corner was met well by Sam Pearce’s powerful header but was somehow scrambled away.
A home equaliser arrived in first-half stoppage time – and in controversial fashion. Charles Ofusu-Hene collected the ball by the left corner flag and as he dribbled towards the Bognor goal appeared to run the ball out of play.
Both sets of players stopped but the referee waved play on. Ofusu-Hene cut the ball back to Ola Williams who smashed home an unstoppable shot from 15 yards. The Bognor defenders complained bitterly to referee Mr Rathbone, and it was clear the linesman had been poorly positioned.
After the match one of the Harrow officials confirmed that the ball had been at least twelve inches over the line.
The second half produced less in the way of goals, but continued to be a hugely- entertaining match.
Bognor largely controlled the game in midfield with some excellent passing football, and Harrow always looked dangerous against the makeshift Rocks defence.
Despite a great deal of possession Bognor rarely looked convincing in front of goal. Doug Tuck, celebrating his birthday, had an excellent match and set up Dodd on at least two occasions but he could not deliver shots with sufficient power or accuracy to trouble Gregory.
Ollie Pearce continued to be a threat to Harrow almost every time he received the ball.
Bognor almost scored their third midway through the half. Wills’ header was flicked on at the near post by Sam Pearce, and met by namesake Ollie’s powerful header. It crashed against the bar and bounced down on the line before being scrambled away.
Dan Kempson then tried his luck but his shot from 25 yards was well saved by the home goalkeeper.
It was not all one way pressure, however, and Lawal should perhaps have scored when Michael Barima outpaced Bognor’s defence and laid on an excellent chance which was blazed well wide. Substitute Vences Bola was thwarted by another superb Wollers tackle as he seemed sure to score.
Harrow’s winner came in the 77th minute when Bola benefited from a deflected ball following a Bognor clearance. The ball broke to him 20 yards from goal, and with no defender within yards, he had the simplest of chances to tuck the ball over Craig
The game ended with Killpartrick on - and nearly setting up a goal - and both Lawal and Dodd having opportunities to score.
Bognor take their stretched and exhausted squad for one last league game at Hampton on Saturday – how they will be looking forward to the three-week break before their big game at the Amex Stadium.
BOGNOR: Stoner, Warren, Kempson, Stockford, S Pearce, Wollers, Tuck, Wills, Woods, Dodd, O Pearce. Subs: Cody (35min for Woods), Marzetti, Killpartrick (80min for Wollers), Crane.
* Doug Tuck, Ollie Pearce and Connor Cody have all been selected for the England Colleges squad to play in an international tournament in Rome from May 3 to 12. Hosts Italy will be joined by Romania, Germany, China, Gambia, Slovakia and England.
The team will be managed by Darin Killpartrick – which means the Rocks had four internationals on the pitch at the end of the game at Harrow
Report by SIMON COOK.