PIC SPECIAL and REPORT: Rocks battle to claim deserved point from Havant clash

The first half of the Rocks-Havant festive double header ended goalless at wet and windy Westleigh Park.

Tuesday, 26th December 2017, 4:55 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 12:41 am
It's mud and thunder as the Rocks battle to a point at Havant / Picture by Tommy McMillan

A superb battling display by the relegation-threatened Rocks was well worth the point - and they had as many chances to pinch the win as their title-chasing hosts.The sides will do it all again at Nyewood Lane on Monday and will do so reflecting on an even contest that at times was the sort of blood and thunder contest you expect from a mid-winter derby.When these sides met at the same ground at Easter, it was first versus second in the Ryman premier - and both went on to gain promotion to the National League South, the Hawks with the title and the Rocks winning the play-offs.This time it was a different story, a game pitting the third-placed hosts against second-from-bottom Bognor. With the top five teams starting the day all on 39 points and the Rocks four points from a safe spot at the other end, it was clear what a huge match it was for both camps. There was very little evidence throughout the afternoon that nearly 20 league places separated the teams.As always when these sides meet there was a healthy-sized crowd inside Westleigh Park, although not in anything like the numbers seen for that promotion crunch game eight months earlier.It was a lively start with one or two meaty tackles flying in, one of which from ex-Hawk Ben Swallow on Wes Fogden earning a talkng-to from the ref.Matt Tubbs had the first effort on goal in the eighth minute but his bicycle kick from 15 yards was held by Dan Lincoln. Then Jimmy Muitt found space on the corner of the box for a shot that was deflected wide for a corner that Swallow put straight out for a goal-kick.A couple of dangerous Havant crosses caused brief alarm for the Rocks defence but they defended one and another scramble was halted by an offside flag.Jordan Rose tried his luck from 25 yards but saw his shot clear the stand roof. In fairness to him, Havant were playing against a strong wind and steady rain.Lincoln kept it goalless with a superb one-handed save to keep out a Tubbs header from Fogden's cross on 18 minutes.The Rocks suffered a big setback on 20 minutes as Keaton Wood was forced to hobble off after going down injured for the second time - his third significant injury in his short time with Bognor. Ibra Sekajja came on and Bognor switched to a back four.After a period of pressure for the home side, which included one mad melee that saw three players have shots blocked, it was Bognor's turn to put their hosts under the cosh, doing so with three corners that Ryan Young and his defence dealt with.Sekajja ought to have put the Rocks into the lead on 28 minutes, running on to a Swallow pass, controlling it and shootin well but just wide of Young's right-hand post. It was encouraging stuff that must have pleased Jack Pearce and Co in the dugout.Fogden went down with a head injury after being caught accidentally in a challenge with Kristian Campbell. A scrappy period followed in which neither side could string a decent move together but it was still a very watchable derby with both sides giving their all.Ex-Rock Jason Prior's low shot was deflected into the path of Tubbs, who brought another excellent save from Lincoln with a low effort that was destined for the bottom corner.Swallow whipped a free-kick in that Young had to be alert to at his near post as the game continued in end-to-end fashion.As one minute of added-on time was signalled, Harvey Whyte chanced his arm from 25 yards but was well off-target.HT 0-0Davies' high, swirling cross almost caught out Young and found Sekajja a couple of minutes into the second half - then Swallow put a dangerous ball in that Havant had to scramble clear.Then play switched straight to the other end and Tubbs was brought down inches outside the box. The Rocks were perhaps lucky to keep 11 men on the pitch - and were relieved when Rory Williams' free-kick struck the wall.Bognor were still giving as good as they got and Davies won another corner with a run to the byline. Young spilled the corner but it was cleared. At the other end Williams raced clear but shot too close to Lincoln.A Rocks spell of pressure ended with Doug Tuck playing a pass through to Tommy Block but his shot on the turn was wide. If only goal machine Tuck, with two in his past two games, had been on the end of it! Immediately Campbell led a counter-attack and fed Sekajja, who beat his man and struck a shot that was deflected over for a corner.Havant replaced Mike Carter with Brian Stock and Rose with Andreas Robinson midway through the second period.Conditions were tough for both sides but it was Bognor who were making relative light of playing against the wind and rain as the encounter entered its final 15 minutes.A final Havant change saw Theo Lewis replaced by James Hayter. Swallow made way for Tommy Scutt with six minutes left.Whyte rifled a shot goalbound from 20 yards that was blocked by a defender.In a slightly chaotic finish Sami El-Abd was booked for what merely looked like a full-blooded challenge deep inside the Havant half. Stock was booked for a slightly-mistimed tackle on Davies in time added on.Robinson belted a free-kick a few feet wide from 25 yards in the final minute of the extra four indicated.Havant: Young, Williams, Woodford, Harris, Fogden, Lewis, Prior, Tubbs, Tarbuck, Carter, Rose. Subs: Stock, Molyneaux, Robinson, Hayter, Widdrington.Rocks: Lincoln, Davies, Campbell, Tuck, El-Abd, Field, Whyte, Block, Muitt, Wood, Swallow. Subs: Sekajja, Beck, Lea, Scutt, Boughton.Ref: Wayne Cartmel (Bedford)

It's mud and thunder as the Rocks battle to a point at Havant / Picture by Tommy McMillan