Bognor Regis 3 v 1 East Thurrock United
THIS clash of the Rocks was deservedly won by Bognor, but struggling East Thurrock can draw great pride from their performance at Nyewood Lane where they drew praise for their attacking endeavour reports The Enquirer.
The visitors were missing several key players, not least defenders Steve Sheehan and Simon Peddie through suspension and the ill Stuart Thurgood in midfield. With an already depleted squad through recent departures East Thurrock boss John Coventry had to put five put five teenagers from the club’s junior ranks on the bench.
However, there was certainly no shortage of confidence from East Thurrock in the opening stages when they took the game to their hosts and enjoyed the best of the early stages.
Their enterprising play earned a free kick on the edge of the box but Chris Bourne’s strike didn’t trouble Mark Zawadski, who was to go on and enjoy a really authoritative game behind a young back line that certainly benefit from his confidence.
Further positive play continued to trouble Bognor and the hard work up front of Leon McKenzie was clearly an unsettling presence and he also showed skill to backheel the ball for David Bryant and open up a shooting opportunity but the home defence got back to close down the opportunity.
Gradually though, Bognor began to open up the game and their improved performance was rewarded on 11 minutes when Terry Dodd picked up the ball on the right and cut incisively into the home defence, drawing players and slotting the ball through a gap past the despairing dive of young keeper David Hughes, making the starting position his own after the departure of Sam Mott.
It took East Thurrock just two minutes to draw level when more fluent play stretched the home defence and Bryant fired goalwards, only for his shot to be blocked by the raised arm of centre-back Craig Robson. He was cautioned and Tom Stephen added further to the home woes by drilling the penalty past Zawadski.
However, the goal didn’t knock Bognor out of their increasingly dominant stride and their clinical finishing came to the fore again on 24 minutes when James Crane flew down the left and with East Thurrock defenders trailing in his wake and delivered the ball to Kane Wills who produced a great finish, curling his shot past Hughes.
At this stage Bognor were in full flow, though East Thurrock occasionally threatened on the break, and it was no surprise when they got a third on 33 minutes when Ollie Pearce delivered a defence-splitting cross that left Dodd with the task of guiding a header past a desperately exposed Hughes.
To their credit East Thurrock kept going and the were particularly strong in the opening exchanges of the second half to prove their resilience, but they couldn’t forge a game-changing opportunity.
They had an escape when Dodd caused problems in the penalty area and as Ryan Sammons slid in to challenge the ball appeared to be cleared by his hand but, much to the disappointment of hoe fans who were baying for a spotkick, the officials missed it.
There was no missing a cynical challenge from Louis John on 66 minutes when Bryant’s clever touch took the ball past him and he was flattened. The incident was on the edge of the box and the ref consulted with his assistant before awarding a free kick and just a yellow card, when a red might well have been flashed.
The free kick came to nothing but the red card was out soon after when Robson picked up his second yellow for a poor challenge on 71 minutes. Bognor reorganised with the imposing Dan Sackman filling the gap at centre half and the remained solid at the back, with Zawadski organising from the back and gathering the ball with confidence whenever his backline was breached.
At the other end Arron Hopkinson showed pace to sprint beyond the visiting defence and strike a shot against the post, the closest either side was to get to a goal as the clock ticked down.
Bognor were undoubtedly the side that deserved the points over the 90 minutes and will surely present a substantial challenge for a play-off spot at least. East Thurrock’s ambitions will centre around survival but there were enough plus points in this performance to suggest that better results will not be too far away.