Rocks fire blanks at Hornchurch

The Rocks found a fox at Hornchurch - but not a fox in the box as they registered a rare game without a goal to slip to defeat in Essex.

George Purcell’s 71st-minute strike was enough to cement his side’s place in the play-off zone and leave Bognor outside the top five.

In truth it was a game of poor quality - on a pitch that could be described in similar vein - and the Rocks could have few complaints about having to make the long trip home empty-handed.

After a forgettable opening 15 minutes, Doug Tuck, probably Bognor’s best player on the night, laid the ball off to Craig Robson whose 20-yard drive was well stopped by keeper Inigo Echepare.

At the other end, Dave Rainford’s shot was comfortably held by Mark Zawadski.

Arguably the highlight of the first half was the appearance of a fox, whose saunter up the pitch before it sat and watched from behind one goal caused a four-minute hold-up. He appeared again in the second half before disappearing, possibly thinking there must be better entertainment on offer elsewhere.

Phil Starkey, the hosts’ right-back, caused the Rocks a few problems down his flank and the home side thought they must score on the half-hour but Kane Wills cleared Lee Bremner’s header off the line.

Three minutes later Purcell was put through by Carl Rook but scuffed his shot.

Just before the interval Ollie Pearce and Tuck combined but the little midfielder shot weakly.

Hornchurch had more of the possession after the break though Bognor did look threatening on the break at times.

Purcell’s 20-yard effort was saved by Zawadski and Stuart Axten was mopping up much of Hornchurch’s attacking play.

Louis John was penalised for handball on the edge of his own area and Purcell’s free-kick was superbly tipped over by Zawadski.

Arron Hopkinson made one fine run into the Hornchurch area but his shot was blocked.

Ben Johnson and Terry Dodd were brought on in an effort to breathe new life into Bognor but they fell behind on 71 minutes as Purcell thumped home a shot from 18 yards after a cross by Rook - albeit slightly against the run of play at that time.

You sensed it would be the only goal and it was although Dodd did his best to work an equaliser for Jamie Howell’s team.

Subs Dodd and Johnson linked up and the winger’s ball across the box might have been met by Dan Sackman, but home centre-half Ricky Hales got there first to clear.

A booking for Robson made it five for the season for the utility man - so he will miss one match, as will Hopkinson, who received his fifth caution against Hayes on Sunday and will sit out the big home clash with Maidstone on December 3.

Bognor are next in action on Saturday, when in-form Bury Town make the journey south from Suffolk.

Rocks: Zawadski, Sackman, Crane, John, Axten, Robson, Hopkinson (Dodd 75), Wills, Godfrey (Chamberlain 81), Pearce (Johnson 60), Tuck. Sub not used: Malins.