Tuck to the rescue as Rocks avoid defeat to Poole
Doug Tuck was the hero with a goal inside the sixth minute of stoppage time to save the Rocks from a damaging home defeat to relegation rivals Poole Town.
It keeps Jack Pearce's team three points behind the Dorset side near the bottom instead of the six it would have been had they lost - and the equaliser came so late it almost felt like a winner.
Rocks defender Keaton Wood was back into the side after his broken nose. He wore a face mask in the first half as protection.
In the opening stages, a flick-on by Jimmy Muitt saw Ibra Sekajja almost in but a defender got their first to clear. Wood’s through ball was too much for Sekajja then Calvin Davies’ cross was blocked.
Muitt’s cross fell to Kristian Campbell but he was blocked before Ben Swallow suffered the same fate soon after. Poole Town responded and Jack Dickson’s dipping cross was headed away at the back post. Another Muitt cross was closed down and Swallow let fly but a defender got in the way.
Swallow did really well to control the ball on the turn before passing out wide to Davies. The full back’s cross only just flew wide of the far post with Sekajja in pursuit. Davies conceded a free kick on 12 minutes but Jez Bedford’s attempt flew high and wide. Bedford capitalised on a loose ball in Bognor’s half. He ran on to shoot but his deflected attempt was well stopped by a diving Dan Lincoln. Bedford then passed to Steve Devlin who smashed it wide following a deflection.
Bognor counter-attacked well and Muitt raced away down the right but his cross into the area was poor and easily gathered by Nick Hutchings. Bognor’s best chance of the half came on 16 minutes. Tuck managed to pick out Campbell, who had made a good run into the box. He ran on with only Hutchings to beat but the goalkeeper denied him. Devlin’s ambitious run into the box ended as he slipped over.
Ollie Harford won a corner on the left for Poole on 23 minutes. Bognor defended it and a second corner by Bedford flew over everyone and out of play. Warren Bentley set up Devlin but from long distance he missed the target.
Shouts for a penalty were ignored on 27 minutes when a chipped pass picked out Muitt.He got to the ball first before Hutchings but despite kicking it over the goalkeeper the player couldn’t capitalise and he felt he was impeded as a defender cleared the danger. Muitt was seeing much of the ball on the right but his low cross into an open penalty box was cleared again.
Campbell was deemed to have committed obstruction on Dickson deep in Bognor’s half and the referee awarded a free kick. Dickson’s low free kick was hacked away by Campbell. On 39 minutes Chad Field slid in to deny Dickson but visitors won a corner, from which Will Spetch nodded wide.
Poole were piling the pressure on in the latter stages of the first half. Matt Neale played a one-two that almost led to a chance, then Carl Pettefer’s chipped ball forward was headed on by Bedford but was easily read by Lincoln.
On 44 minutes Davies set up Muitt but from the edge of the box the attacker blasted over the bar. An under-pressure Spetch headed another Dickson corner wide for the Dolphins before Devlin’s free-kick was punched clear by Lincoln.
Bognor started the second much like their first half - on the attack. Muitt and Swallow combined before a couple of corners came to nothing. During this incident the referee slipped over whilst awarding a free kick to Poole, sparking ironic cheers from the 600-plus crowd. Spetch had to come off with the injury and was replaced by Lewis Lindsay on 54 minutes.
A ball down the right saw Swallow get to it before crossing. Sekajja was there to hit it first time but a defender blocked his chance. Davies found Muitt with a threaded pass down the right but again no men in green and white could capitalise from the low cross. Campbell hit the side netting when he got on the end of a deep Swallow cross on the back post.
Poole took the lead on 65 minutes. Neale made his way through and won a corner off Wood. Devlin’s corner saw Lincoln out of position and the Rocks defence failed to clear the ball and it was Bentley who capitalised, poking into the net from close range.
On 67 minutes Swallow beat his man before shooting wide of the post from outside the box. A great chance went begging as Muitt did all the hard work and ran with it across the byline before shooting low and forcing Hutchings into a very good diving save. Harvey Whyte replaced Sami El-Abd on 71 minutes.
On 74 minutes Swallow’s dipping cross into the box was spilled by Hutchings, who relied on his defenders to clear the loose ball. Bognor were pressing for an equaliser. A Campbell effort was blocked before Swallow’s strike was headed straight back out again by Jamie Whisken.
Whyte was clearly impeded on 83 minutes but Davies’s kick flew out of play. Tommy Block was replaced by Dan Beck on 84 minutes for Bognor. Steadfast defending denied Field when he burst through the Poole half only to be blocked at the last moment. Then Tuck found Whyte who threaded it through to Sekajja - he turned well but his cross left much to be desired as it whizzed out of play.
Sekajja’s quick throw saw Davies strike at goal from outside the box but it was easily saved by Hutchings inside the indicated seven minutes of stoppage time. It was all Bognor and another throw-in fell to Whyte who committed the goalkeeper into a save - before Swallow’s corner found the desperate Lincoln in the box but it was headed over.
Eventually to the huge joy and relief of the hosts, the equaliser came. Whyte did well to find Campbell out side and his cross fell to Tuck in the box and he smashed the ball high into the net to send the Bognor faithful into raptures as Rocks salvaged a point six minutes into stoppage time.
Rocks can now look forward to a derby on Boxing Day away to Havant & Waterlooville, 3pm kick off.
Bognor: Lincoln, Davies, Campbell, Tuck, El-Abd (Whyte 71), Field, Sekajja, Block (Beck 84), Muitt, Wood, Swallow. Subs not Used: Lea, Scutt.
Poole: Hutchings, Moore, Harfield, Spetch (Lindsay 54), Whisken (c), Pettefer, Dickson, Bentley (Gyebi 80), Bedford, Neale (Balmer 73). Subs not Used: Rees, Leslie-Smith