AFTER a fortnight with no game, Bognor resumed their pursuit of Ryman one south honours with a comfortable 3-0 win at Horsham YMCA.
Luke Nightingale broke the deadlock early on before James Crane and James Fraser wrapped up the points for the league leaders.
The Rocks remain a point clear of Met Police, who beat Burgess Hill 3-0, and three clear of Whithawk, who beat Whyteleafe 5-0. But fourth-placed Leatherhead lost 2-0 to Godalming and are now 15 points behind the Rocks.
The Rocks made it six points from six over YMCA for the season without Michael Birmingham, who was on the bench because of a back problem. But the team were otherwise at full strength after a two-week break.
On a heavy and difficult pitch, the Rocks created the first chances. After just two minutes, Jason Prior nodded on a Crane throw from the left but Nightingale couldn’t quite get to the ball as Mark Fox rushed out to gather. Then Crane had to be quick to clear a dangerous cross from Zac Henry on the left.
Moments later Prior was brought down just outside the box but Fraser’s free-kick was cleared.
Ben Johnson, who worked hard all game, lofted a ball forward to Prior, but a defender was quicker than him to head clear.
Dan Beck brought down Michael Abnett near the halfway line, but Scott Harris’ free kick couldn’t be guided towards goal by Gavin Gordon.
The Rocks took the lead on ten minutes. The ball bounced awkwardly over the defence and Nightingale chipped Fox. The goalkeeper appeared to think the ball was heading over the bar but it dipped just at the right moment.
Bognor continued to attack and on 17 minutes Prior failed to slip a pass to Nightingale as the ball bobbled.
Perhaps YMCA’s best opportunity of the day came seconds later. Danny Dudley’s free-kick was cleared only to Ashley Robinson, who smashed a shot from long distance. The effort committed Craig Stoner into a neat diving save, palming the ball one-handed away for a corner.
Johnson and Crane combined on the left to get the ball into the box. Nightingale headed towards Prior but it was too high and it went out for a goal kick.
Disappointingly Fraser blasted a shot well over from a tight angle inside the box.
The only yellow card of the game was shown to Robinson, booked after losing the ball in an attack and tripping up Perry Ryan.
Johnson beat Ben Bowra down the left to cross but Kane Wills’ glancing effort was somehow cleared. The ball fell again to Johnson but his second cross was caught by Fox.
Prior was put through by Wills in a counter-attacking move, but the linesman had his flag up for offside.
The acceleration of Crane allowed the full-back to dart into the box, but his square pass inside the area was feeble and easily dealt with.
It was all Bognor as they tried to extend their lead. Wills won the ball in midfield it fell to Johnson who sped to the edge of the area to shoot. But his swerving attempt was saved.
On 36 minutes Bognor should have gone 2-0 up when Fraser’s left-sided free kick found Prior in the box. But Glen Woodburn in defence managed to power a header off for a corner as the tall striker rose to head the ball towards goal.
Another free kick was taken by Fraser moments later. The forward ball into the box was too much for Prior but Rocks were continuing their dominance.
Beck laid the ball off for Johnson to cross but Fox was able to catch it on the back post.
Prior was brought down and another free-kick awarded. However, Fraser’s attempt at a cross failed as the ball sailed over Tim Bond’s head.
Fraser swung a cross in from the right but the goalkeeper pushed the ball out one-handed, leaving his defenders to clear the loose ball.
The Rocks came out with real intent in the second half. Beck wove in between the defenders to get a cross away but Fraser, under pressure inside the area, headed well wide.
Then Crane worked from defence to power forward and direct a pass to Beck. Though Beck’s cross from the left was inaccurate as Woodburn headed clear.
YMCA had some chances - one when Rocks failed to clear their lines on 53 minutes. Robinson got himself into some space in Bognor’s half, but his low shot went straight at Stoner.
Bognor notched their second goal after 54 minutes. After beating the defensive line, Crane managed to slot the ball low into the bottom corner.
Soon Wills, Prior and Nightingale did well to control the ball on the bounce as Nightingale dashed in to follow up. But Fox gathered the loose ball.
YMCA went close on 58 minutes when Harris swerved a shot narrowly over the bar from just outside the area.
Abnett drove the ball straight into the arms of Stoner with a right-sided cross four minutes later.
On 65 minutes Fraser brought the ball down for Prior. But the striker’s ambitious low shot bounced well wide.
Johnson stole the ball from Woodburn to get a shot in from the edge of the area but his fierce shot flew narrowly over the bar.
Some ‘ole’ football came with Bognor passing the ball around with ease and the travelling support were pleased with the confidence of their players. This led to Fraser sliding the ball wide of the right post.
Rocks should have been further ahead on 74 minutes. Johnson threaded Prior through on goal, but he couldn’t quite get to it as he clashed with the keeper. The ball rolled to Crane, who had an open goal gaping. But somehow the left-back placed his effort wide of the left post when most expected him to finish.
Minutes later, a throw by Ryan led to Nightingale bringing the ball down for Prior. The striker hit a half volley but it was always rising and whizzed over the bar.
The Rocks secured the points with their third goal in the 82nd minute. Ryan did superbly to beat his marker and get into the box. He cut the ball along the six-yard box for Fraser, who slid in to score from a yard.
The management will be pleased with a clean sheet and the confident way in which they went about their win.
Bognor’s next game is at home to Faversham Town next Saturday.
ROCKS: Stoner, Ryan, Crane, Fraser, Axten, Bond, Beck, Wills, Prior (Whitehead 89), Nightingale, Johnson (Royce 84). Unused Subs: Wood, Marzetti, Birmingham.