Delayed derby day is a delight for Worthing - and sobering for Bognor
Worthing moved seven points clear at the top of the Isthmian premier table as they came from a goal down to beat Bognor with a commanding second-half performance.
The Rocks led through a sublime Jordy Mongoy finish but Callum Kealy cancelled it out before the break – then Ollie Pearce netted a second-half double to deflate his old team.
It means Worthing end 2021 on a real high and look well on their way to the tile and promotion to National South, while the Rocks go into the new year needing an upturn in form and fortunes if they're to mount a serious bid to get into the play-offs.
It was 12th v 1st at a packed Nyewood Lane – the biggest gap in the table between the sides on a derby day for some time, this for a game scheduled for Monday afternoon but rearranged for 24 hours later when a waterlogged pitch put paid to the original plans.
Worthing have had a great season so far but Bognor's has been up and down, with defensive frailties holding them back in their quest for promotion or at least a play-off spot.
With top scorer Nathan Odokonyero out through illness, Pompey academy loanee Dan Gifford came into the Rocks forward line for his debut – and his fellow Fratton Park youngster Harvey Hughes was also in the side, in place of injured full-back James Crane. Calvin Davies and Harvey Whyte were also missing through injury.
The home defence were under pressure in the first minute in a Worthing move that ended with Jasper Pattenden having a clear sight of goal but his shot was blocked. There was an early flashpoint when Pearce went down on the halfway line claiming to have been struck and was angrily told by Ashton Leigh to get up. The referee took no action other than the Rebels free-kick.
Pearce was not far off-target with a glancing header at the near post from a right-wing cross in a lively start to the game. Then Gifford did well down the right and the cross fell to Charlie Bell, whose goalbound shot was deflected for a corner. Worthing skipper Aarran Racine was booked on 13 minutes for halting Mongoy's run down the left with a mistimed challenge.
Bognor took the lead on 19 minutes with a lovely finish by Mongoy. He chased a long ball down the left that left the Worthing defence exposed. Keeper Harrison Male came then retreated but as he did so, Mongoy looked up and chipped a perfect shot over him and into the net to spark noisy home celebrations.
Worthing took a while to find their feet after conceding but a good run by Reece Meekums ended in a foul by Bell that earned him a booking. From the free kick, Pearce's curling shot cleared the bar by some distance. The visitors won another free kick, this one a little further out, and it was played quickly into the box to Pearce, whose pass to Kealy enabled him to turn and shoot low past Amadou Tangara, who got a hand to it but could not keep it out.
A lovely turn and run into the box by Bell almost brought Bognor a chance to regain the lead but his cross was dealt with. Both sides went close in one passage of play just before the break. A Worthing cross from the left was only just cleared by Bognor and when they broke, an attack broke down but the ball fell to Robb, whose low drive wasn't far wide. HT 1-1
At half-time a tannoy announcement was made to the crowd stating that no racist language would be tolerated. That followed an incident in the first half in which Rocks keeper Tangara appeared furious with something that fans behind his goal had said or done as he prepared to take a goal kick.
Worthing carried the first threat of the second half and Pearce worked space for a shot that came back off Tangara from close range.
Adam Hinshelwood's team were enjoying a spell on top with Bognor unable to get the ball out of their half, and one challenge on Meekums had Worthing pleading for a penalty, but the referee said the foul was just outside the area. Kealy almost had his second of the afternoon on 56 minutes with a curling right-foot shot that was just beyond Tangara's post - then the Bognor keeper was out quickly to save from Pearce.
Hughes was booked for a late tackle on Beresford on the Worthing right. And as Worthing continued to dominate the early stages of the half, they were winning a number of free-kicks in dangerous areas.
You felt a Worthing goal was coming and it did on 63 minutes when Pearce punished his old side. The striker was brought down by Robb on a weaving run to goal inside the box and the referee pointed straight to the spot, sparking strong protests from the home defenders and a view later from Rocks boss Jack Pearce that the penalty award was very soft. Ollie Pearce sent Tangara the wrong way from the spot, to the disappointment of most in the 2,239 crowd.
Worthing introduced Dayshonne Golding for Kealy with 20 minutes left and his first involvement was to run on to an Armstrong pass and draw a good save from Tangara – but immediately the ball was put back into the box and Pearce pounced from close range to make it 3-1. Another incident involving the crowd then held up play briefly – with Worthing keeper Male indicating he had an object thrown at him.
Another flashpoint followed between Leigh and Pattenden after a strong challenge near the touchline – both players were booked after having to be kept apart by team-mates. A double Rocks change had occurred in the meantime with Robb and Bell replaced by Harrison Brook and Kayne Diedrick-Roberts.
Worthing were looking the most likely to get the next goal and some desperate Rocks defending was needed to keep them out. Pat Webber came on for Pattenden as the game entered its final ten minutes. Then Pearce was denied completion of his hat-trick by a flying Tangara save.
Five minutes remained when the Rocks brought on Yasseir Nazor for Leigh. Worthing's final change saw Meekums replaced by Luke Robinson. The latest sub almost slid in Worthing;s fourth but Tangara saved.
As four extra minutes were indicated, Golding flashed a 20-yard shot well wide. The whistle blew on a great end to the year for Hinshelwood's side - and an afternoon to forget for Bognor.
Rocks: Tangara, Flannigan, Hughes, Robb, Cook, Robson, Bell, Dandy, Gifford, Leigh, Mongoy. Subs: Brook, Diedrick-Roberts, Nazor, Howick, Wyatt.
Worthing: Male, Colbran, Tutt, Barker, Racine, Kealy, Meekums, Armstrong, Pattenden, Pearce, Beresford. Subs: Cochracchio, Seager, Webber, Golding, Robinson.
Ref: Adrian Harris