In a match which they should have won, Bognor were ultimately delighted to earn a single point thanks to Jason Prior’s bullet header in the fourth minute of injury time.
With James Crane absent for family commitments, Alex Parsons was restored to the starting line-up, with Snorre Nilsen reverting to the right-back position.
Bognor began strongly, with Parsons causing considerable concern with his marauding runs down the right wing and it was no surprise when opposing left-back Ashley Dumas received an early caution for one too many pulls on Parsons as he went past him with ease.
Referee Mr Ions was clearly not one to stand for any nonsense and many more bookings were to follow – not that the game was anything other than a hard-fought contest.
The Rocks should have taken the lead with just eight minutes on the clock. Parsons jinked past Dumas and placed a lovely ball across the six-yard box to Stuart Green, who somehow missed the ball when he should really have scored.
Minutes later Chad Field could have opened his account as a Bognor player as he came up for one of many corners in the first half. The ball was fed to him at the edge of the box after excellent work by Gary Charman and Field’s snap shot was just over the bar.
As time wore on in the second half it began to look as if the Canvey goal was protected by an invisible barrier.
Midway through the half the referee fell awkwardly and initially seemed winded and in some discomfort. However the magic sponge of Rocks physio Rachel Rees soon had him up on his feet. He had not lost his cards in the fall – as Field was the first Bognor player to be booked for a retaliatory foul.
Although the visitors were having more than their fair share of possession, Canvey looked dangerous when they were able to break forward, with left winger Ozzy Adeniji causing particular problems with his speed. His run around the half-hour mark almost brought the opening goal. Picking the ball up on the halfway line he cut inside and outpaced the Bognor defence, but Grant Smith saved his powerful shot well.
Normal business was resumed straight from Smith’s clearance. The ball was fed to Parsons, who set off on an excellent run. He cut the ball back to Prior who shot powerfully from 12 yards but was disappointed that the ball went just past the post.
A similar situation occurred with the next attack. This time it was on the left with Daryl Wollers cutting inside and feeding the ball to Ollie Pearce. Pearce beat the keeper with his shot but watched with dismay as it went just past the far post.
Canvey upped their game for a period and Adeniji and Glenn Poole both had shots on target – only to see Smith handle them with confidence.
Shortly before the break the home side were reduced to ten men. Dumas again pulled Parsons down on the edge of the box to earn his second yellow card – on his 28th birthday!
Surely the Rocks would now go on to score against ten men...
However minutes later, on the stroke of half-time it was Canvey who took the lead. A long ball over the top beat Craig Robson and Martin Tuohy had time to advance and drill the ball past Smith.
The second half continued with the visitors pressing, but Canvey defending with great determination and looking dangerous whenever they were able to break themselves.
Young Alfie Rutherford came on to bolster the attack, replacing Wollers, and looks to be an excellent prospect for the future. Harvey Whyte replaced Nilsen as Bognor pressed for a goal.
Having reduced their defensive capabilities, Bognor did at times look a little exposed at the back and both Adeniji and Tuohy had reasonable opportunities as they tried to take advantage of the additional space. On each occasion Smith dealt with their shots well and was able to immediately start the counter-attacks.
One concern was the possibility of another red card being the result of the many yellows being brandished by Mr Ions. Robson and Whyte were booked as were a couple more Canvey players – but this was not a dirty match.
As time wore on in the second half it began to look as if the Canvey goal was protected by an invisible barrier. Home keeper Jake Larkins made a number of excellent saves, but his defence performed superbly with captain Richard Halle making a number of well-timed last ditch blocks and tackles inside the penalty area.
In one frenzied attack Robson, Field and Prior all had shots blocked on the line in an amazing ten-second goalmouth scramble. Moments later Rutherford’s determined run into the box was thwarted at the last moment by a superb tackle by defender Tambesong Eyong.
In a by-now-rare counter attack the home side should have made it safe, but Jay Curran headed tamely at Smith when he really should have scored.
As the match entered the five minutes of injury time, keeper Jake Larkins somehow palmed a deflected shot off the line and Pearce blazed the ball just over the bar from the follow-up.
Bognor earned another corner after 94 minutes and this time Jake Thomson’s ball was met superbly by Prior’s bullet header to bring some justice to the scoreline – but it was heart breaking for Canvey who had defended so resolutely.
The game was not yet over – straight from the restart Bognor pressed and a cross from parsons was met by a powerful header from Rutherford which just cleared the bar with Jake Larkins well beaten.
Bognor: Smith, Nilsen (Whyte 68), Wollers (Rutherford 52), Charman (Rowlatt 82), Field, Robson, Green, Thomson, Prior, Pearce, Parsons. Unused subs: El-Abd, Horncastle.
Bognor’s next game is on Saturday at home to Tonbridge.
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