Rocks Review: Rocks 3 Hendon 1

Ashley Robinson on the attack during the Rocks' win over Hendon Picture by Kate Shemilt
Ashley Robinson on the attack during the Rocks' win over Hendon Picture by Kate Shemilt
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THE ROCKS returned to winning ways to maintain their position amongst the Ryman premier pacesetters.

Goals from Harvey Whyte, Terry Dodd and Daryl Wollers in the last 16 minutes enabled the Rocks to record their first home win over their North London opponents since 1989 and move back into a play-off spot.

One change was made to the starting line-up that had lost in controversial fashion at Kingstonian the previous week, with Wollers returning at left-back, pushing Matt Partridge into the centre of defence, with Louis John making do with a place on the bench.

Bognor attacked from the first whistle and in the second minute, they should have taken the lead when Stuart Axten met a Kane Wills corner unchallenged but placed his header wide of the target.

In the 19th minute, a poor clearance from visiting keeper Berkeley Laurencin resulted in Ashley-Paul Robinson feeding Lewis Stockford on the left, and his low cross was met by Dodd from 12 yards out, but his first-time effort curled wide.

The Rocks were far from having everything their own way and an enterprising move from the visitors midway through the half saw a teasing cross from the right, with Axten forced into making a desperate clearance on the six-yard line to knock the ball behind for a corner.

Within a minute, the visitors went even closer when Isaiah Rankin’s header was blocked on the line by Wollers.

The former Premier League striker appealed for a handball but referee Graham Kane ruled otherwise.

On 36 minutes, Whyte presented himself with a chance from 25 yards out and his stinging effort was blocked by Laurencin, who gathered at the second attempt.

Whyte should perhaps have done better just before the break when from James Crane’s knockdown, volleyed sky high from 10 yards out in a crowded penalty area.

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A torrential downpour greeted both sides as they emerged for the second period and the early stages saw a move involving Dodd and Stockford set up Robinson, but the chance came to nothing.

Another commanding midfield performance from Wills saw him involved in another move and Dodd was unlucky to see his powerful header from the skipper’s cross fly just over Laurencin’s bar.

The Rocks made a change with Ollie Pearce replacing Robinson but the youngster’s appearance was cut short following a heavy challenge inside the centre circle, resulting in him hobbling off - Doug Tuck coming on in his place.

The Hendon forward line forced Craig Stoner into a number of saves in the second period, particularly when denying Rankin, who was through on goal.

The visitors were even closer to breaking the deadlock on 57 minutes when Belal Aite-Ouakrim’s angled drive beat Stoner, only to bounce down from the crossbar and away to safety.

On 74 minutes, the Rocks finally opened the scoring. The ball arrived at the feet of James Crane 30 yards out and his low rasping effort was well blocked by Laurencin, only for the ball to fall kindly at the feet of Whyte, who slotted home the loose ball from eight yards.

In the 83rd minute, the Rocks effectively made certain of victory when Wills and Stockford combined well on the right to set up Dodd, who beat Laurencin at the near post.

Hendon were not finished and three minutes from time, a mistake at the back saw the ball arrive at the feet of Julian Owuso on the corner of the area. However, his poor finish appeared to sum up his team’s afternoon, firing well wide with the keeper stranded.

Shortly before being substituted for John, Dodd was named as the match sponsor’s man of the match.

With 90 minutes on the clock, Bognor extended the lead further and indeed saved the best to last, with a contender for goal of the season.

With the Rocks catching the visitors on the break, the ball was fed to Wollers, who had just the keeper to beat, in which he duly succeeded, curling his effort over Laurencin from 30 yards out, clipping the underside of the crossbar on its way in.

Hendon refused to give up and they grabbed a consolation deep into injury time, when Dean Cracknell’s deflected effort from the edge of the box left Stoner wrong-footed.

ROCKS: Stoner, Marzetti, Wollers, Crane, Axten, Partridge, Stockford, Wills, Dodd (sub John), Robinson (sub Pearce), Whyte. Subs: Pearce (sub Tuck). Unused: Kempson, Boyle.

HENDON: Laurencin, Hall, Cousins, C. McLaren, Braithwaite, K. McLaren, Cracknell, O’Leary, Rankin, Aite-Ouakrim, Owuso. Subs: Murray, Mazzone, Diedhou, Federico, Muir.

Report by Rob Garforth

Get all the latest from Nyewood Lane - including news of the Rocks being named team of the year in the Observer community awards - in the Observer, out on Thursday.