VIDEO: Charman edges Rocks into next round of FA Cup

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An 89th-minute strike by Gary Charman earned Bognor a place in the second qualifying round of the FA Cup.

They’d led through Craig Robson’s superb diving header from a corner but Aaron Rhule’s 85th-minute equaliser looked like forcing a replay in Surrey.

But the Rocks went all out for the winner and Charman was on hand to fire it in from close range to earn a £3,000 cheque for the club and a place in Monday’s draw.

The sun was out for Bognor’s first FA Cup game of the season, with their Ryman premier rivals Merstham the visitors in the first qualifying round.

Robson was able to play after finishing a two-match ban for dissent and with Doug Tuck out with hamstring problems, he slotted straight into central midfield.

That meant Chad Field kept his place alongside Sami El-Abd at the back while Ollie Pearce was up front after recovering from an injury that saw him helped off in the closing stages of Wednesday’s win over Met Police.

Gary Charman - who later got the winner - gets a shot in for the Rocks v Merstham / Picture by Chris Hatton

Gary Charman - who later got the winner - gets a shot in for the Rocks v Merstham / Picture by Chris Hatton

Merstham, making their second visit of the season to Bognor after a 4-3 league defeat on the first day of the season, had ex-Rock Omar Foulkes on the bench.

The Rocks have had conceded early goals in a number of home games this season and were faced with plenty of pressure from the Surrey visitors in the opening exchanges, but the defence held firm.

Merstham forced four corners in the first nine minutes and it was clear the Rocks defence were set for a busy afternoon. The fourth was the closest they came to making one count as Wes Daly met Fabio Saraivo’s kick on the volley, but saw his shot drift high and wide.

Charman almost put the Rocks into the lead in the tenth minute. He let a high diagonal pass into the box bounce over his shoulder then caught it beautifully with a left-foot volley but keeper Brannon Daly got a fingertip to it and it brushed the wrong side of the post.

Finally the breakthrough came for the home team on 68 minutes and it was a fantastic goal - a diving header by Robson from Pearce’s corner that gave the keeper no chance as it flew just inside the post.

Ex-Horsham man Charman was also involved in the Rocks’ second decent chance, heading a high cross down into the six-yard box where Stuart Green mis-hit his shot with the keeper out of position.

In the main, Bognor were struggling to find their rhythm - although they almost had a helping hand when keeper Daly spilled a straightforward Pearce cross, but there was no white and green shirted-player on hand to take advantage.

Right-back Michael Abnett fired in an ambitious shot from 30 yards when given space to get forward but it was well wide.

The game’s first yellow card went to Merstham’s Reece Hall for leaving a foot in on a challenge that left El-Abd hurt.

Dan Beck and Chad Field had shots blocked from a Pearce free-kick on 32 minutes.

Prior’s flick-on almost put Green in on goal then when the striker did find the ex-Moneyfields man with the follow-up, he was offside.

Bognor were improving as the half went on and Daryl Wollers almost played Green in with only the keeper to beat after cleverly intercepting a Merstham break.

HT 0-0

Bognor had what looked a solid claim for a penalty turned down eight minutes into the second half when a lob appeared to hit a Merstham player’s hand.

Then Pearce played in Green down the right and he took the ball past the keeper and to the byline, only for a defender to block his attempted cross. From the resultant long throw, Pearce and Green both had goalbound efforts blocked as the Rocks got closer.

There was another penalty claim for the hosts - and it was another strong one - on 59 minutes as Charman seemed to be impeded as he ran on to Green’s header in an exchange between the pair, but the referee was having none of it.

Charman was booked just after the hour for bringing down Wes Daly in the centre circle in a Merstham counter-attack.

Merstham threatened on 67 minutes but Tommy Hutchings’ sidefooted effort was weak after a cut-back from Abnett.

Finally the breakthrough came for the home team on 68 minutes and it was a fantastic goal - a diving header by Robson from Pearce’s corner that gave the keeper no chance as it flew just inside the post.

Another super-long throw by Charman caused panic in tge Merstham six-yard box, but they scrambled it clear.

Bognor made their first change on 76 minutes as Alfie Rutherford replaced Green.

Yet another Charman throw, or missile might be putting it more accurately, was inadvertently flicked on at the near post by a Merstham defender and only narrowly missed trickling in.

Rhule rescued Merstham on 85 minutes, sliding the ball under the advancing Smith from close range after holding off Whyte’s challenge, seemingly forcing Bognor into a midweek replay in Surrey.

But the Rocks retook the lead in the 89th minute, Charman firing the ball in from close range after a spell of pressure that saw Prior go close and then Merstham clear in a goalmouth melee.

Merstham sub Tommy Kavanagh might have levelled again but his 25-yard shot hit a team-mate as the game entered injury time.

Three minutes of injury were indicated but four were played - but the Rocks held on to go into Monday’s draw.

Rocks: Smith, Whyte, Wollers, Field, El-Abd, Robson, Green, Beck, Prior, Pearce, Charman. Subs: Rowlatt, Rutherford, Horncastle, Parsons.

Merstham: Daly, Abnett, Douglas, Daly, Gonslaves, Cooper, Hall, Samuels, Hutchings, Saraivo, Rhule. Subs: Kavanagh, Foulkes, Gunner, Olarewaju, Cox, Aboagye, Makiese.

Ref: Sam Ogles (Eastleigh)

The Rocks return to league action next Saturday away to Ryman premier leaders Grays.

* Pagham’s FA Cup run is over. They lost 2-1 at home to Carshalton, bowing out to a 90th-minute Greg Andrews winner after Dan Kempson had cancelled out Jordan Higgs’ opener.

STEVE BONE

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