The Rocks were dealt an early blow on Monday night when Stuart Axten failed a late fitness test, and with Jon Marzetti missing due to work commitments it looked as if they would find it difficult against the divisions in-form team and league leaders.
However, a superb team performance deservedly produced their best result of the season so far with a second invaluable away victory in three days, and as at Billericay on Saturday it was another late, late goal that clinched the points.
Bognor began in great style on an excellent playing surface, slick with rain, and very conducive to a fast, flowing match.
Right from the start the visitors attacked relentlessly and in the first half an hour Kingstonian barely had a chance to counter. With only 90 seconds gone, an excellent ball from Harvey Whyte out wide to Arron Hopkinson almost produced the opener, but Marcus Moody somehow got back to block Hopkinson’s shot with just Rob Tolfrey to beat in the home goal. From the resultant corner Craig Robson came close with a powerful header.
Wave after wave of Bognor attacks produced a flurry of corners as the home defence struggled to keep the scores level. The usual vocal support from the Nyewood Lane supporters kept up their encouragement throughout the match, and thought they had the first goal to celebrate after 16 minutes.
Again Hopkinson was the danger man, and his low cross into the box was turned goalwards by Ollie Pearce, only for a home defender to scramble it off the line with Tolfrey beaten.
In a rare Kingstonian counter attack, Tommy Cavanagh shot from distance but it sailed harmlessly wide.
Bognor deservedly took the lead with 23 minutes gone. An excellent passing movement between Doug Tuck and Pearce found Ben Godfrey out wide on the left. The big striker appeared to hesitate for a moment before unleashing a superb curving shot from an acute angle. The ball rocketed into the top far corner of the net, giving Tolfrey no chance at all.
As the half wore on, Kingstonian did begin to mount some meaningful attacks of their own, with the League’s top scorer Andre McCollin looking dangerous. A well-timed tackle by Daryl Wollers inside the six-yard box prevented McCollin getting a shot away, but both Hopkinson and Robson also came close to scoring for the visitors.
Just before the break, Matt Drage was correctly cautioned for a crude tackle on Pearce. Pearce hobbled off at half-time and was clearly in some pain. It was no surprise he had to be replaced by Terry Dodd early in the second half.
A goal up at the break, Bognor were probably disappointed all their possession had not produced at least one more goal, and obviously anticipated greater efforts in the second period from the home side. However, with Robson having a magnificent game in the centre of defence, Kingstonian were unable to trouble Mark Zawadski’s goal and it appeared that Bognor were still the more likely side to score.
Dodd did have a good opportunity when released by Hopkinson, but Sam Page just managed to deflect his shot wide at the last moment.
The home side drew level on 64 minutes somewhat against the run of play. A cross from Matt Pattison looked to be going nowhere until it hit the boot of James Crane and spun up over the stranded Mark Zawadski, giving McCollin a simple opportunity to score.
This would now be a test of Bognor’s resolve, but with Dan Sackman on for the injured Wollers their defence withstood some pressure. James Crane made a superb tackle to deny Kavanagh’s powerful run into the box and Daniel Sweeney’s shot from 20 yards missed by inches.
However, the Kingstonian pressure meant they were open to the counter attack, and on three separate occasions Bognor were in with great opportunities to score again.
With just four minutes to go, they did get the goal they so richly deserved. Kane Wills powered into the box and as he bore down on goal he was hauled down by the unfortunate Drage.
A second yellow card for Drage saw his departure from the field and a penalty was awarded with little protest from the home players. Unfortunately Wills appeared to be badly injured by the foul and after some considerable time he was carried off to take no further part in the match.
Ben Johnson, who had come on only a few minutes earlier to replace Harvey Whyte, eventually took the penalty which was well struck into the corner of the net.
Tolfrey did guess correctly, but the accuracy of the kick gave him no chance. This was the Rocks’ first successful competitive penalty after nine successive misses.
Bognor’s anxious supporters had to endure six minutes of added time, during which Sweeney almost scored for the Ks, only for Zawadski to bring off an excellent diving save. In the dying seconds Hopkinson outpaced the home defence and his cross into the box was just missed by Dodd.
Referee Mr Georgiou’s final whistle was greeted with great acclaim from the travelling fans. They had seen perhaps the best performance by a Bognor team for a long, long time and the match itself was a wonderful advert for the Ryman League.
Bognor’s concern after the match was how serious was the injury to Wills. It appeared possible he had suffered ankle ligament damage, but the swelling was so great that it was difficult to be sure. He was taken as a precaution to hospital after the game, and Jamie Howell and his management team will be hoping that it is not as serious as it looked.
Bognor: Zawadski, Malins, Crane, Tuck, Wollers (Sackman 64’), Robson, Hopkinson, Wills, Godfrey, Whyte (Johnson 75’), Pearce (Dodd 55’).
Unused Sub: Boyle.
by Simon Cook