Sunday, January 29, 2023

Football: Another win as Rocks move closer to the top

A DESERVED win, which might well have been more emphatic had Rocks stepped on the gas earlier, gave John Coventry’s side a share of the points lead of the Ryman Premier but they are a couple of goals behind Dulwich Hamlet on goals difference.

Rocks had found the Hillians a tough side to beat when the teams met at Rookery Hill a couple of weeks ago and again the Sussex club showed a great deal of resolve.

However, Rocks always looked the better side and enjoyed much more of the ball than their hosts, even if they didn’t use it as well as they might have in the first half.

The opening stanza brought few chances and if there was a criticism of Rocks is was that they lacked innovation around the Burgess Hill box. They did create a couple of chances in the opening exchanges and ref Louis Marks, who did out a couple of yellow cards for cynical home challenges that snuffed out attacks, twice missed clear fouls in the box on Tom Wraight, the first when he was blocked and prevented from getting onto the end of a loose ball six yards out by the arms and body of keeper Josh James.

That chance went, as did the two free kicks that followed the yellow cards, both driven into the wall by Lewis Smith and Wraight respectively.

Burgess Hill offered little at the other end, where new signing Joe Ellul quickly settled into his central defensive partnership with Rickie Hayles.

On the half hour Rocks’ Aaron Morgan hustled his way through a crowded box but James blocked his shot and then Smith raced through from the other side of the area and though his shot squirmed under James’ body, the keeper took enough off it to be able to grab it at the second attempt.

Burgess Hill finally threatened with a brief flurry of half chances which saw visiting keeper Lukas Lidakevicious called into action to make a couple of decent saves, but half time came with a sense of disappointment from the visitors who must have wondered if they had squandered an opportunity.

However, they picked up the pace again in the second half and once more forced the Hillians onto the back foot and James made a great diving one-handed save to push Morgan’s fierce drive aside and surprisingly, given their domination, a first corner for Rocks.

That came to nothing and was the prelude to an improvement from Burgess Hill, who began to threaten and came very close to the first goal of the game when Sam Fisk’s header came off the woodwork and was gratefully hacked to safety.

At that point Rocks introduced James Walker for Morgan. The striker had produced the winner, albeit from an offside position, in the first meeting between the two sides and he played a role in Rocks opening goal which came on 72 minutes. The catalyst was Ellul who made a surging run forward and slipped the ball to Smith whose interchange with Walker opened up a gap and Smith drove home a low shot that beat James and crept inside the post.

Having waited so long for a first goal, it took Rocks just five minutes for a second with Wraight bursting through to crash a shot goalwards that beat James, albeit courtesy of a deflection off Joe Keehan.

After that Rocks eased into cruise control and effectively ran the clock down to close a very productive January with a fifth win in the month, which added to draws against Grays and Dulwich has seen them climb almost to the summit of the table, but with an unbeaten run going back to October they will feel confident of taking their form into February and a sequence of matches that begins at Harrow Borough on Tuesday.


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