Rocks crush Brighton to reach the final
Bognor Regis Town ran riot to stun Brighton & Hove Albion with a sensational five-star showing and set up a Sussex Senior Challenge Cup Final showpiece with Burgess Hill Town at the Amex in May.
The competition is the most prestigious prize on offer in county football, and the Seagulls having won seven of the last twelve tournaments were bidding for a third successive title this time, but they had no answer to a stunning show of pace, power and clinical finishing from Jack Pearce’s Bostik League side.
Brighton never recovered from a stunning opening salvo in which Bognor raced into a three goal lead inside fifteen minutes and you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the Nyewood Lane side that resembled the full-time and fully professional team.
Rocks assistant Rob Blake admitted a fast start had been part of his side’s game plan, and said: “We were fully aware of Brighton’s record in this competition, having won it the last two years they are always the team to beat. It was no co-incidence we started the way we did, we told the players to go out on the front foot, make them sit off us, get in their faces and to make sure we kept our shape and discipline.
“To get to the Amex is a special moment for me, all the players and the football club so I am very proud. It really was a five-star performance, I don’t want to single anyone out for praise as the whole team was absolutely magnificent. Winning trophies is what you live for and we’ll do everything we can to finish the season strongly and prepare for that huge occasion next month against Burgess Hill.”
The Seagulls - fielding an inexperience side of mostly under-18s players - came under a swirling vortex of pressure right from the get go and were 3-0 down before they even knew what had hit them.
Harvey Whyte got the ball rolling as he capped a flowing five-man move to fire in off a post after only three minutes, and Bradley Lethbridge headed in from close range less than forty seconds later.
The Rocks were riding a wave of confidence after their clinical early showing, and the mountain became steeper for the Albion when Leon Maloney swept home a third goal from Lethbridge’s clever back-heel on fourteen minutes.
Bognor had almost put the game beyond doubt already in front of a bumper Culver Road crowd of three-hundred and ten whom could scarcely believe what they were watching.
Danny Lincoln saved well from Lorent Tolaj as Brighton finally spluttered into life, and Jack Spong then tried his luck with a speculative shot from distance.
Half-time offered only the briefest of respites, and Bognor soon moved 4-0 ahead in comical fashion. There looked to be no danger as keeper Billy Collings held on to the ball from a corner, only to stumble and drag the ball back over the line with him. It summed up a torrid semi-final that Brighton will want to forget in a hurry.
Hayden Roberts tapped home the smallest of consolations but still the Rocks were not finished and added gloss to the scoreline with arguably the pick of the bunch after seventy-five minutes. Substitute Jimmy Wild collected the ball wide on the left, stormed beyond his floundering marker Owen Moore, jinked beyond two more Brighton men and thrashed the ball high beyond Collings from the tightest of angles.
Stefan Vukoje was denied by Lincoln’s superb stop late on and tensions then boiled over in injury time with Spong, Roberts and Bognor’s Widdrington all booked. The former in particular was fortunate to escape more serious censure after a crunching challenge on the Rocks man, whose resultant card came in retaliation.
(A selection of photographs can be found on Facebook - courtesy of Kyle Hemsley Photography)
Stats: (Bognor Regis Town-Brighton & Hove Albion)
Goals: 5-1; Shots: 15-7; Shots-on-target: 7-4; Fouls: 4-9; Corners: 8-2; Offside: 1-1; Yellow cards: 1-2; Red cards: 0-0.
Bognor Regis Town: Lincoln, Read, Field, Wood, Leigh, Whyte, Gilot, Widdrington, Walsh, Maloney, Lethbridge.
Subs: Wild, Dunn, McCormick, Scutt.
Brighton & Hove Albion: Collings, Moore, Clarke-Eden, Spong, Tomlinson, Roberts, Jenks, Everitt, Longman, Cashman, Tolaj.
Subs: Packham, Vukoje, Tanimowo, Lopata, Rushworth.
Match report by Jamie Spoor