TWO all-too-easy goals within seven second-half minutes ended Cray’s miserable run of results and continued Bognor’s on another goalless afternoon for the hosts.
This was one of the Rocks’ poorest displays of the season and ended in a third straight defeat to nil to see Jamie Howell and Darin Killpartrick’s team fall farther away from the race for the play-offs.
With Ashley-Paul Robinson ruled out by a knee injury, there was a first Rocks start for young striker Ollie Pearce. Daryl Wollers was again partnering Stuart Axten with the Rocks short of fit centre-halves.
The game started at a lively pace with the Rocks conceding a free-kick within ten seconds that thankfully came to nothing.
Cray’s James Fray was first to try a shot at goal but his low, bobbling effort was comfortable for Nick Jordan in goal.
Immediately the Rocks threatened for the first time as Jordan Clarke danced through to win a free-kick 25 yards out, but Kane Wills’ delivery was poor and it ran out for a goal-kick.
Dan Thompson played Harvey Whyte into a promising position on the edge of the box but the ball got caught up in a tangle of legs and the chance was gone.
Cray certainly didn’t look like a side who had suffering a few hammerings in recent weeks. They were enjoying an equal share of possession and weren’t afraid to throw men forward in pursuit of the opening goal.
The Rocks were struggling for their usual fluency and were unable to provide any kind of early service to front two Pearce and Thompson.
They wasted a good chance on 18 minutes. Thompson got away down the right and when he checked back and swung over a left-footed cross, Whyte should have done better but got his timing all wrong and his header didn’t trouble the keeper.
Then James Crane and Clarke combined to put Thompson through with only keeper Andy Walker to beat. As Walker advanced, Thompson chipped the ball up and over him but it was too high. It was to be about the best chance the Rocks would get.
The Rocks looked a little panicky going forward and when they did get into good positions their final ball wasn’t good enough - as witnessed by Jon Marzetti’s right-sided cross flying out for a goal kick when he looked well-placed to put it into the danger area.
One attempt at a quick break down the middle by Cray was snuffed out by an excellent bit of defensive work by Wollers, who was again looking perfectly at home at centre-half.
Whyte tried to take things into his own hands for the Rocks when he cut into a central position instead of crossing from the right, but his low left-foot strike was blocked. Then Clarke chanced his arm from just outside the area only to see it fly past Walker’s right-hand post.
Another neat build-up from left to right ended with Marzetti’s floated cross being easily caught by Walker.
And another great chance came and went in the final minute of the first half. A one-two between Marzetti and Whyte saw the full-back pull back a cross for Dan Beck ten yards from goal but he missed his kick and Cray cleared. A corner soon after that was easily dealt with before the referee signalled half-time.
Cray were appealing for a penalty a minute into the second half as Fray went down under Wollers’ challenge but the referee had a perfect view and waved play on.
It was all Cray early in the half and Michael Power lashed in a shot which shaved the outside of Nick Jordan’s left-hand post from 18 yards as they pressed for the opening goal.
In front of another decent-sized crowd of 441, the Rocks were labouring to impose themselves on opponents who seemed to be growing in confidence as the game went on.
Cray duly took the lead in the tenth minute of the second half. And it was a fine strike that broke the deadlock, Power rifling home a shot from the edge of the area after taking a touch to tee up a left-foot shot that Jordan could do little about.
Cray made the afternoon’s first change with Jack Clark replacing Danny Phillips.
The Rocks had a free-kick in a handy central position but when Crane belted it low towards goal, it was deflected into keeper Walker’s arms.
Seven minutes later Cray doubled their lead through an easy finish for Alex Stavrinou after the Rocks defence were caught cold by a neat Cray move down the right.
The Rocks might have got back in it a minute later when a corner was met by Beck, but his header went over.
On 63 minutes Dan Kempson replaced Marzetti, which meant Beck slotting into the right-back spot as the new man went into midfield.
Clarke’s shot was blocked by a defender on 67 minutes after Crane - now playing farther forward - found space for a cross from the left. From the resultant corner Stuart Axten’s downward header was cleared off the line.
The Rocks were at least looking more threatening in the final third, but needed a goal fast to revive their hopes of avoiding a third straight defeat.
Whyte turned and hit a low shot too close to the keeper after another Crane cross as the Rocks kept up the pressure. Then Whyte had another go, his 20-yard shot just wide.
Cray brought off scorer Power, replacing him with Mempasi Phani. Bognor brought on Lewis Stockford for Pearce.
Whyte had become the home team’s main attacking threat and he was almost in on goal when a defender missed a through-ball. Whyte was mysteriously booked after the ball went out - presumably for dissent.
Another Rocks break ended in a dangerous cross from the right by Clarke which looked destined for Whyte’s head but a defender got there first. Cray were furious the referee had allowed play to go on with their sub Phani down injured on the halfway line.
The Rocks fans were shouting for a penalty with six minutes left as a Crane cross appeared to hit an arm, but a corner was all that was given.
As close as anything the Rocks had managed the whole game was a floating cross by Wills that Walker had to palm over the bar.
From the corner, Thompson headed on at the near post but Crane nodded over from close range.
Cray were happy to soak up the pressure and keep the ball when they got hold of it, with little sign of a late home revival.
Whyte was named man of the match.
The Rocks’ last chance fell to Crane from a free-kick in the D but again the wall did its job.
Rocks: Jordan, Marzetti, Beck, Crane, Axten, Wollers, Clarke, Wills, Pearce, Thompson, Whyte. Subs: Stockford, McFarlane, Kempson, Stoner.
Cray: Walker, Parkinson, Pooley, Saunders,Willy, Burgess, Fray, Stavrinou, Power, Phillips, Estrada. Subs: Phani, Clark, B Abbott, Fasunan, G Abbott.
The Rocks go to East Thurrock on Tuesday looking to end a run of three straight defeats.
- STEVE BONE