JASON PRIOR’S injury-time penalty gave the Rocks their third National League scalp of the season and put them in the first round of the FA Trophy.
They edged a gruelling and often scrappy encounter at a grey, wet Nyewood Lane thanks to the skipper’s clinical penalty, given for a foul on sub Gary Charman just inside the box.
The penalty was the first Prior had taken since his agonising double miss from the spot at Wealdstone in the FA Cup. Here, there was never any doubt he would take it - and not really any that he would bury it.
For the Rocks this was a fourth game this season against a team from a higher division. They went into the tussle with the mid-table National League South side having already beaten Oxford City from the same division and Lowestoft from National North.
Their other game against a National South outfit was at Wealdstone, where they pushed the Stones all the way before going out of the FA Cup in the fourth qualifying round.
Bath City included defender Jack Batten, borrowed this week from their Football League neighbours Bristol City.
The morning’s sunshine had long gone although the steady rain seen in the build-up to the game had receded somewhat by kick-off.
The first worthwhile attack came from the Rocks on three minutes. Stuart Green found Ollie Pearce wide right and his curling cross was headed by Snorre Nilsen, but the attentions of a defender caused him to head wide.
Chas Hemmings was first to try an effort at goal for Bath but his drive was more a threat to the windows in Seasons clubhouse than Grant Smith’s goal.
Chike Kandi raced on to a Harvey Whyte throug-ball on seven minutes, forcing Bath keeper Steve Phillips to run out and hoof clear. The Rocks kept the pressure on and Kandi volleyed wide at the near post from Pearce’s delivery.
Bath were unfortunate not to take the lead during an almighty scramble in the 12th minute. A cross from the left caused panic and Bath had three attempts blocked or cleared off the line.
On the quarter-hour mark James Crane drove a cross from the left wing which found Prior’s head but he directed it wide.
It was an entertaining and fairly even tussle with both teams playing nice football and wanting to attack at pace.
Nilsen was booked in the 18th minute for a clumsy challenge on Andy Watkins. Kaid Moheamed’s free-kick was headed clear by Prior. Soon, a free-kick from Bath’s other wing had to be similarly cleared.
Whyte got a long lecture for a foul as Bath attacked down the left.
Brad Williams hooked over a cross that had Smith back-pedalling along his goal-line but was dealt with.
Mohamed needed treatment after an accidental clash with an opponent in the centre circle.
Green and Kandi led a Rocks attack that ended with Craig Robson’s pass into the box being reached by Phillips.
Smith almost gifted Watkins an opener for Bath on 29 minutes, losing possession as he tried to see the ball out of play. Watkins won it on the by-line but found the side netting from the tightest angle possible.
Pearce was so close with a far-post volley from a Crane cross on 33 minutes that struck the post, then Green drove a follow-up shot goalwards only to see it blocked - it was the closest the Rocks had come as they battled to make headway against the word of the stiff wind.
Things got heated five minutes before the break after a strong tackle in midfield by Robson that Bath’s players took umbrage at despite him having got the ball. The fisticuffs ended with Robson being booked.
There followed a spell of pressure by Bath including a couple of corners, but the Rocks repelled them.
The Rocks looked lively at the start of the second half and Kandi forced Phillips into a diving stop by glancing a header towards goal from Pearce’s floated ball in. Kandi returned the favour for Pearce six minutes into the half, returning a pass that led to Pearce sidefooting a shot only just wide of the far post.
Dan Bowman’s shot was very high and wide at the end of Bath’s first meaningful attack of the second period.
Sami El-Abd was the unlikely Rocks player almost in on goal in the 57th minute when Bath only half-cleared a corner. But he was crowded out.
Bath quickly broke through Watkins but Chad Field was fouled as he rose to head clear the cross.
Alfie Rutherford replace Green just before the hour but before he’d touched the ball Dave Pratt’s surging run at the home defence ended with a shot that Smith did well to parry for a corner.
El-Abd was booked for bringing down Watkins by the corner flag but the free-kick was cleared.
The succession of yellow cards continued - Whyte was shown one for a foul on Mohamed and then finally the ref saw fit to book a Bath player, Williams having his name taken for halting a Rocks breakaway despite them still being in their own half.
Mohamed ran at the Bognor defence and when his shot was blocked it ran loose to Pratt, whose low effort was held comfortably by Smith.
Rutherford woke the home fans from their slumber by intercepting a corner and running the length of the pitch before unleashing a fierece shot that was only just wide and high.
Bath’s first change saw Mohamed replaced by Nick McCootie, while Bognor replaced Nilsen with the newly-returned-to-the-club Charman.
On 80 minutes as Kandi chased a long ball and was hauled back by Ball. The centre-half was booked but the Rocks couldn’t threaten with the free-kick.
Bath looked the more threatening team for a while and Watkins, a danger all afternoon, beat Smith with a right-footed shot from 12 yards that rattled the post. Soon, Ball’s curling shot was blocked by a Rocks leg.
Rutherford led another pacy attack but was crowded out then Pearce became the fifth Bognor name in the book.
With the officials having indicated three extra minutes, there was late, late drama as sub Charman was fouled as he found the ball played into his his feet just inside the box. The challenge was clumsy, the ref pointed to the spot and, after a delay, Prior placed it low to the keeper’s right to send the home fans wild.
There was no time for Bath to recover and find an equaliser and there were wonderful scenes as the Bognor players and management celebrated with the fans, reflecting on a win that earned the club £4,000.
The draw for the first round is on Monday and potential opponents include Havant, Maidstone and Dulwich.
Rocks: Smith, Whyte, Crane, Field, El-Abd, Robson, Pearce, Nilsen, Prior, Kandi, Green. Subs: Rutherford, Charman, Beck, Tuck, Boughton.
Bath C: Phillips, Bowman, Gallinagh, Batten, Ball, Hemmings, Watkins, Adelsbury, Pratt, Williams, Momamed. Subs: McCootie, John, Yeoman, Simpson, Rollo.
Ref: Adrian Quelch (Christchurch)
Att - 362
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