ROCKS REVIEW: Rocks 2 Corinthian Casuals 2

Ryman one south leaders Bognor twice surrendered the lead to draw 2-2 with Corinthian Casuals at Nyewood Lane.

Luke Nightingale’s early strike and a late Jason Prior put penalty put the hosts 1-0 and 2-1 up but each time Casuals hit back - scoring their second equaliser three minutes into injury time.

It was the Rocks’ third home draw in a row and they need to start winning their home games again if they’re to stay in pole position ahead of Met Police, who trail them by four points with two games in hand.

Matt Whitehead started at left-back with James Crane on the bench with heavy strapping to his leg. Dan Royce got a start on the right wing and Perry Ryan returned from suspension to start at right-back.

Things looked promising from the onset and the Rocks were ahead after just 45 seconds when good play led to Ben Johnson finding space on the left to curl in a cross for Nightingale. The striker nodded the ball into the bottom corner.

The visitors looked quick in midfield and after just fivbe minutes Kenny Ojukwu linked up well with Tom Williams down the right. The fullback swerved his attempted cross over the bar.

Johnson sped across the defence to offload the ball to Royce. But his first touch was too strong and the ball rolled straight to Luke Naughton in goal.

Then Royce showed his pace to outrun Dave Hodges on the right to cross. But it flew narrowly over the bar.

In a neat move, Johnson passed to Nightingale who stepped over the ball. Prior was right behind him to strike it low, but the goalkeeper pulled out a good save to deny him.

Johnson fed Royce down the right and he crossed but Naughton punched it out to Ryan. The defender smashed his shot across goal and away for a goal kick.

Prior then earned a corner which Johnson took - but Tim Bond, who along with Stuart Axten has been challenged to start chipping in with goals, headed over.

Casuals looked dangerous going forward and Shaun Lucien ran down the wing to cut into the box. He had a shot but Craig Stoner saved it easily.

On 22 minutes Nightingale went down in the Rocks half. He required lengthy treatment which held up play for a minute. He gingerly got to his feet and did return to play moments later.

For Casuals, a long throw by Wayne Finnie eventually fell to Glen Boosey. The midfielder volleyed the ball towards the bottom corner, but Stoner’s diving save was good and he palmed the ball away.

But Casuals gained the equaliser on 28 minutes. The goal came after some poor defending from the Rocks, who looked nervous at times. Boosey pounced on the opportunity to shoot from inside the area. Stoner got something on it but it wasn’t enough to keep the ball out.

At the other end, Prior wasn’t quick enough to react to Finnie’s poor defensive header after Royce had crossed. Naughton came out to instantly to divert the ball away.

Sam Robinson’s left-sided corner found Scott Hassell on the back post, but he headed over.

Michael Birmingham had to be replaced on 32 minutes by James Fraser. The Rocks veteran had appeared to take a knock, and headed straight for the treatment room.

Johnson beat Williams down the left to strike a cross towards the back post. But Hassell nodded the ball to safety before Nightingale could get there.

The hard-working Johnson dug out another cross for Prior, who beat his marker to glance a header straight at Naughton.

In a nervy moment, the ball appeared to bounce off Bond’s hand before Lucien crashed the ball off the crossbar with a fierce shot.

A counter-attack saw Kane Wills slot through defence to Prior. But he must have been disappointed with his effort as it bounced wide of the left post.

Whitehead almost let Ojukwu through after he had outwitted Lucien. But luckily for him the linesman had his flag up.

Tensions rose towards the end of the half as Matt Kidson went down bizarrely after appearing to elbow Nightingale in the back.

First-half stoppage time saw the Rocks have two chances to score from a free-kick. Prior was brought down just outside the area and Ryan blasted over, but the referee brought it back after some shirt-pulling. The second attempt was curled in by Johnson, which fell on to the head of Nightingale, who, in space, nodded wide, but he was offside anyway.

HT 1-1

Bognor looked the most likely to score straight from the restart. Ryan skied his attempt at a cross from deep on the left after receiving the ball from Nightingale.

Boosey had a shot deflected wide from the edge of the area on the break for the visitors.

Royce linked up well with Ryan on the right and, after beating his defender, he hit a low shot straight at Naughton.

A similar chance fell to Bognor when Johnson fed Fraser, who laid the ball back to him just outside the box. But his low shot was easily stopped.

Prior did well to cut the ball across to Royce inside the area but frustratingly the winger smashed over when he had time and space to perhaps to do better.

Things just weren’t going right for the Rocks as Royce whipped in a cross for Nightingale only for his first touch to be dismal and the ball rolled to Naughton.

The visitors should have done better after they capitalised on a poor pass. Lucien had lots of space but he blasted wide.

Prior latched on to a Wills chipped pass. The striker went to ground after Kidson appeared to shove him, but the referee ignored the calls for a penalty.

Naughton came out and clashed with Prior after the striker ran on to a through-ball. Both players received treatment.

Bognor had another chance when Ryan drove in a free-kick that was headed by Prior and then Bond, but again Naughton was there to punch clear.

Substitute Phil Turner beat his marker to rush down the right and square to Fraser. But the midfielder’s shot was disappointing and deflected wide.

Then Fraser’s right-sided corner kick fell on to the boot of Prior, who volleyed over.

Another penalty appeal sounded when Prior appeared to be pushed inside the area, but again the claims were ignored.

Ryan, who had a good game, crossed from deep on the right. His forward punt fell to Prior, who headed straight at Naughton from 15 yards.

The right-back was again the provider when he found Prior with a cross. Prior headed low towards goal, but Naughton palmed the ball out.

But the Rocks were finally awarded a penalty on 87 minutes. Prior was brought down in the area and the referee pointed straight to the spot. Prior stepped up to take it himself, driving the ball high into the net.

It seemed like the Rocks’ record of not dropping a point on a Saturday this season would continue but there was a final twist to come.

With four minutes of stoppage time indicated, the Rocks had to hold on.

Fraser was booked as tensions rose and in the 93rd minute, the Rocks’ hopes of their first home win in three games were dashed.

Hassell capitalised on yet another defensive mistake to direct the ball beyond Stoner and leave Rocks fans with a sickening feeling.

ROCKS: Stoner (6), Ryan (8), Whitehead (6), Wills (6), Axten (6), Bond (5), Royce (7) (Turner), Birmingham (7) (Fraser), Prior (7), Nightingale (7), Johnson (7) (Beck). Unused subs: Wood, Crane.

The Rocks are next in action next Saturday at Ramsgate.

Report by Liam Goodley