Rocks Review: Rocks 1 Worthing 0

For an hour it was a bit of a turkey. But the final 30 minutes of the Boxing Day derby at Nyewood Lane turned into a bit of a Christmas cracker for the Rocks with the winning goal and a missed penalty by the visitors.

The end result was three points which took the Rocks six points clear of Dulwich Hamlet at the top of Ryman one south.

The only blot on the landscape for the hosts was a late red card for Jon Marzetti for a tackle on Worthing’s Tom Manton, which the home camp felt the Worthing man made a lot of.

The incident led to a dust-up involving about a dozen players which the officials took a couple of minutes to calm down.

The Rocks had a boost before the game with Ben Andrews, Steve Harper and James Crane all cleared to play after suffering injury scares at Whitstable nine days earlier.

Worthing were missing a number of players, including suspended striker Ryan McBride.

The sun had come out by the time the game kicked off in front of a healthy-sized crowd, later revealed as a whopping 1,279, the majority of whom were hoping the Rocks could extend their two-point advantage at the top of Ryman one south.

Ben Andrews was captain in the absence of Dan Beck, out through illness.

The first chance of the game fell to Jason Prior, who ran on to a precise through-ball by Kane Wills. His low shot beat keeper Alan Mansfield but was wide of the far post.

That heralded a spell of Rocks pressure and ex-Rebel Terry Dodd and James Crane were both close to getting on the end of attacking moves before Ben Andrews directed a header wide from a corner.

Then Tom Lawley had a great opportunity to put the Rebels ahead when he seized on a loose ball after a poor clearance by Andrews, but he held on to the ball for too long before shooting and defenders got back to crowd him out.

Dodd ran on to a long ball down the left by Darryl Wollers but was off-balance when he shot.

Ben Johnson and Crane’s persistence down the left allowed Johnson, another ex-Worthing player, space for a cross. It fell to Harper beyond the far post and when his ball back in was headed goalwards by Prior, it was comfortably held by Mansfield.

The Rocks were looking a little unsure of themselves at the back but the Rebels couldn’t find a way through.

Johnson weaved an opening for Crane, whose cross was blocked for a corner, but Andrews headed wide from the kick.

Manton failed to trouble Axten when he was teed up for a 25-yard effort which flew well wide.

Manton and Steve Davies then both went close to giving the Rebels the lead in a quick break by the visitors, but they were denied by some heroic goalkeeping and defending by the hosts.

Just before the half-hour mark, Prior beat Mansfield to a high cross from the right by Jon Marzetti but he had no control over where it went and it was well over the bar.

Then Stoner made a brilliant save to claw away a deflected goalbound effort by Paul Kennett at the end of a scramble sparked by Kennett getting a boot on a far-post cross to keep the ball in play. Worthing sensed a goal but were some way off getting it when Lawley sent a volley over the clubhouse and out of the ground.

Steve Metcalfe was next to threaten a lethargic-looking Rocks team but his cross-shot after a run into the area down the left by blocked by Stuart Axten.

Dodd was played in on goal by a nice flick from the otherwise-quiet Prior, but after getting into a great position in the box, he fired a rising shot wide.

There was controversy three minutes into the second half when Dodd claimed he was tripped as he ran into the box to meet a cross from Prior as the Rocks broke quickly down the left. But his appeals were waved away by the referee.

Worthing were still threatening, with Jamie Brotherton looking a threat cutting in from the left.

Harper’s cross on 57 minutes was volleyed just over by Johnson but the flag was up for offside in any case.

At the other end Brotherton crossed for Huckett, whose near-post flick found only the side netting.

Andrews headed inches over from a Harper cross and then on 61 minutes the Rocks took the lead. Dodd’s square ball across the box set up Prior and when his connection was well-blocked by Mansfield, the loose ball was driven high into the net by Harper.

Wills wasted a good opening when his cross found the keeper with three green and white shirts waiting expectantly in the box, before Stoner saved the Rocks again with a great reaction save from a close-range header, possibly from one of his own players.

The Rocks looked certain to take a two-goal lead when Prior ran through and slid the ball past Mansfield with 17 minutes to go, but his shot hit the base of the post and trickled out with no Rocks player there to convert the rebound.

Ex-Rock Darren Budd came on for Worthing, replacing Steve Davies on 75 minutes.

The Rocks made a change of their own on 82 minutes when Chris Breach replaced Johnson.

Worthing were handed a lifeline with seven minutes left when Axten was judged to have tripped Brotherton. The Rocks felt Axten had got the ball - but they were breathing a sigh of relief when Huckett sent the penalty well over the bar.

Callum Saunders replaced Harper as the clock ticked down while John Lansdale replaced Luke Gedling.

The match erupted with four minutes left when Marzetti slid in on Manton, sparking a furoius reaction from the Worthing players, who felt the tackle was dangerous.

Around a dozen players got involved and the officials took a couple of minutes to calm them down before sending off Marzetti, who looked unimpressed with the decision. Both captains were lectured and told to keep their players in order for the remainder of the game.

Worthing tried to make the one-man advantage count as the Rocks moved Crane back to fill in for Marzetti.

Sub Breach was booked for tripping Brotherton 30 yards from goal. Lansdale hit the free-kick cleanly enough but it was straight at Stoner - and that proved the last action of the game, leaving the Rocks and their fans to celebrate a vital victory.

Rocks: Stoner, Marzetti, Wollers, Crane, Axten, Andrews, Harper, Wills, Prior, T Dodd, Johnson. Subs: Breach, Boyle, Saunders, Blatchford, Bond.

Rebels: Mansfield, Piper, Metcalfe, Gedling, Hurley, Kennett, Brotherton, Huckett, Davies, Manton, Lawley. Subs: Lansdale, Budd, Shaun, Pulling, M Dodd.

Ref: P Lavelle (Totton)

The Rocks have no game on New Year’s Eve and are next in action on bank holiday Monday afternoon at Whitehawk.