Sports Rocked by Bognor in FA Cup Exit
Borough-Bognor - as King George V almost said - turned into a game of seized chances and missed chances...
Ollie Pearce was the goal-grabbing hero, as Bognor put aside modest league form to tip an off-colour Eastbourne Borough out of the Cup. Two strikes, at crucial times early in each half, gave the Rocks just enough buffer to repel waves of Sports attacks.
Pearce’s opportunism was wedded to excellent Rocks planning and some superhuman defending. Borough had more of the ball and a heap of chances, but paid dearly for the lack of a cutting edge. And while Bognor rode their luck at times, Borough were right out of luck at the key moments of the game.
Indeed, manager Jamie Howell had suffered his first blow a week earlier, when Yemi Odubade pulled up with a nasty groin injury against Oxford City. The partnership of Yemi and JT has been central to the Sports’ recent fine run of results, and his replacement Nat Pinney – a striker with many gifts, but different ones – was less of handful on the day for the Rocks defence. With everyone else fit, Jamie had choices at the back, and opted for centre-back pairing of Charman and Simpemba. If they sound like a firm of accountants, the experienced duo were indeed totting up the profit and the loss later in the day…
Bognor had opened the season with a flourish, but their recent results have suffered through injuries, and their squad is still short of bodies. Even so, the eleven who started this game looked more than capable – and with so much at stake, they needed little extra motivation from Jack and Dabba. The season’s largest Priory Lane crowd included a large number of travellers from the Other Lane, and we were all set for a classic…..
But if Sports supporters expected a tough but triumphant outcome, the Rocks had torn up the script within minutes. Early exchanges came to nothing, but on 12 minutes Simpemba slipped as he went to clear a cross from the left, and an alert Ollie Pearce skipped round him and slid his shot past the advancing Bailey Vose and just inside the bottom right corner of the net.
And so the pattern of the next 80 minutes was set: not the expected sparring and testing-out, waiting for the breakthrough, but a steady entrenchment by Bognor, defending their lead and frustrating the home side. Yes, the visitors had their chances, but fewer than the Sports, and as the minutes drained away later it was clear that their victory would be built on layered, disciplined defence.
Borough may have been fatally slow off the starting grid, but they were now soon in gear. This reporter’s notebook notched seven or eight scoring chances before half-time – but none were notched on the scoresheet.
18 mins: an impressive Gavin McCallum superbly sets flying winger Harvey Willard clear, but Willard’s cross is deflected for a corner from which Charman heads over.
23 mins: referee Lee Brennan plays a sensible advantage on El-Abd’s foul on Pinney, but from a chaotic Rocks penalty area the ball is scrambled away.
27 mins: Pinney deftly leaves his marker for dead and closes in on goal, but the angle is narrow and Dan Lincoln makes a smart save from the right-footed shot.
30 mins: Charlie Harris intercepts a Bognor goal-kick and finds Kane Wills, whose diagonal pass puts Taylor briefly in behind, but the ball is cut out for a corner.
32 mins: Gavin again sets Willard free, and this time the young wide player fizzes a perfect low ball across the goal area, but Pinney is a toe-end away from netting it.
34 mins: yet another immaculate ball down the line gives Willard a third chance to cross, blocked for a corner, which a defender can only head down to Willard – who blasts his shot too high.
37 mins: JT’s control and movement create a great close-range opening, but Lincoln is equal to it with a fine save.
38 mins: as the pressure grows excruciating, Bognor’s narrowest escape so far, as an astonishing – or fortunate – defensive header deflects Sergio Torres goalbound diagonal shot up and over.
45 mins: McCallum shimmies in from the left and hits a right-footer from 20 yards, but Lincoln has good sight of it.
In between the barrage, Bognor had two or three moments of their own. Doug Tuck looped a shot too high from the D after McCallum’s defensive header fell nicely for him. Then a horrible Vose clearance fell straight to Pearce, but as the ball was moved wide for a shot, the keeper redeemed himself and saved it well. And just before the break, Dan Beck’s lovely cross was well met by a soaring Swallow, whose header skimmed just too high.
The half was Borough’s on points, but Bognor had landed the single lethal punch – and within five minutes of the restart they were gifted a sucker-punch second goal. Gary Charman – who has been a terrific servant to both these clubs – intercepted a ball down the Bognor right and, rather than clearing it to safety, tried to turn it back to Vose. But his pass was hopelessly underpowered and Jimmy Muitt was on to it like lightning, scything a pass across to the marginally-onside Pearce, who buried it from six yards.
The Rocks, surely, could not believe their luck. Braced for a second-half siege, they now had the crucial buffer of two goals rather than one. Grouped around the heroic figure of El-Abd, and with every man playing his part, the visitors grew in spirit and confidence while the Sports steadily ran out of time.
Jamie Howell made three pro-active and positive substitutions, finishing with a teamful of attackers, if you include the set-piece forays of the centre-backs. Eastbourne had more of the ball and more of the territory, but Bognor smothered them. Their strikers harried from the front and their midfield was packed tight. Only, perhaps, the high back line which the Rocks persistently play might have offered Borough space – the sort of space that an Odubade would have relished…
Ironically, despite the territorial imbalance, the visitors had three or four goal-worthy breaks, but Vose saved the best of them from Muitt, and the same striker skied the next best.
With striker Lloyd Dawes, freshly arrived from Worthing, full of bustle and sharpness, there was still hope. On the hour mark, Simpemba put his header too high from a Wills corner, and shortly after that, in a frenzied Bognor penalty area, both Dawes and Leon Redwood saw their shots bounce back off defenders’ bodies. Close, but not close enough.
Into the final ten minutes, and the Rocks now had their eyes on the prize. Willard hit two shots at the keeper, and then Taylor cracked a rising shot which Harvey Whyte deflected off the line with an amazing block. It summed up the afternoon.
Borough deflated, Bognor buoyant. The travelling faithful were rightly overjoyed – although it was a pity they chose to punctuate a fine Sussex sporting encounter by roundly booing Kane Wills, a former Rock. It was shabby treatment which he had done nothing to deserve.
A post-match Darin Killpatrick was thrilled and quite emotional. “We prepared so hard for that, we worked so hard, and we delivered the plan. They peppered our box and sometimes I feared we just couldn’t get out. Dan Lincoln made some terrific saves, Ollie’s goals were brilliant, but I was really pleased for the younger players like Tommy Block and Joe Lea. Our supporters were absolutely superb and they drove us on.”
A defeated manager has nowhere to hide, but typically Jamie Howell was measured and dignified in defeat. “Credit to our opponents for some fantastic defending. Some days you could play all night and not score, and this was one of them. We didn’t start well and an early goal changes the pattern of a game. We had masses of pressure, but our final shot or cross were sometimes poor. We were a bit rash from good positions. I always though that fate would play a part…..”