The Rocks’ first ever to Witham’s Village Glass Stadium produced one point after a stirring second-half fightback following a disastrous first half and yet another serious injury to add to the ever-growing queue in the treatment room.
The pitch was hard, bumpy and devoid of grass in many areas and by popular agreement was the worst many associated with the team could remember.
However the team’s poor start could not be blamed entirely on the surface. At times it was clear this was a patched-up side who are struggling to build momentum.
The home side are battling to avoid relegation and they were certainly showing more urgency in the early stages.
Their constant pressing and harrying of Bognor looked to have an early effect when Witham’s Lewis Godbold burst through, shrugged off a couple of challenges and was about to let fly when Craig Robson timed his tackle perfectly to prevent an early goal.
A few minutes later the goal did come however, when a terrible mix-up in the box by both Charlie Oatway and Chris Winterton allowed the ball to spin away and touch Godbold before rolling gently across the line off a post.
It was a dreadful goal to concede and within two minutes the afternoon worsened for the visitors. Alex Parsons broke clear of his marker and set off down the wing only to pull up in obvious pain, clutching his hamstring.
He clearly could not continue and Terry Dodd came on as his replacement. The concern will be that Parsons becomes another key player who will be unavailable for potentially a month or so.
Midway through the half Bognor mounted their first attack of note and gained a free-kick out on the right. Jake Thomson flighted in an inviting cross, but it was immediately cleared to the impressive Danny Emmanuel who set off at pace, easily beating two defenders.
He swept the ball out wide to Chris Bryan who placed the ball straight into the path of Godbold, who thumped the ball home impressively from 20 yards for his second of the afternoon. The move had been direct and demonstrated how best to play the conditions.
Minutes later only a fine Chris Winterton save prevented Kurt Smith from extending the home side’s lead, and when Bognor themselves created an opportunity in the box just before the break, James Crane and Jason Prior were unable to take advantage.
By the end of the first period, Bognor had begun to wrest the momentum away from Witham, although they still struggled to come to terms with the dreadful playing surface.
Straight from the start of the second half, we saw a different Bognor – now playing more direct football. It was not particularly pretty but their long, direct balls were causing concern in the home defence.
Whenever Witham managed a rare attack, Robson, Dan Sackman and young Snorre Nilsen dealt with them comfortably. Nilsen, although carrying an injury from Tuesday’s match at Hampton, had come on to replace Omarr Lawson and, looking very comfortable, was able to begin a number of attacks down the right.
Bognor’s play deserved some reward but when it came the scorer was the home side’s Lawrence Yiga. A flowing move down the right enabled Jack Maloney to send a low hard cross into the six-yard box. With Prior and Dodd pressurising him, Yiga headed forcefully into his own net.
Bognor sensed the game could be saved and continued to have the majority of play. Thomson was having an excellent game and Crane was being brought regularly into action as an attacking option.
As Bognor pressed they did leave gaps at the back and Emmanuel will feel he perhaps should have scored when he burst clear. His shot was well blocked at the last moment, however, by Sackman.
Normal service was resumed as Bognor poured forward and Thomson let fly with a powerful shot from 25 yards, only for Martyn Guest in the home goal to pull off an excellent diving save.
With 12 minutes to go the scores were level. Again Thomson was involved and his excellent lob into the box was latched on to by Dodd, who swivelled to score from ten yards – his first goal in his second spell as a Rock.
Dodd almost scored again within two minutes. A Crane cross was headed just wide and almost immediately the same player almost dispossessed the home keeper as they both tussled for the ball.
If anything Bognor will be disappointed their constant pressure in the second half did not produce a win, but they will equally be very relieved they did not pay for such a poor half and come away with nothing.
Their next test comes when Met Police visit Nyewood Lane this Saturday.
BOGNOR: Winterton, Lawson (Nilsen 46), Crane, Oatway, Sackman, Robson, Maloney, Thomson, Prior, Overton (Wedlake 64), Parsons (Dodd 15). Unused sub: Wollers.