United suffered a third consecutive defeat this afternoon against lowly Bognor which included the dismissal of keeper Delroy Preddie minutes after a controversial decision by the referee in allowing the Rocks second goal to stand.
The home side started at a steady pace with their usual smooth passing game seeing them keeping possession for lengthy spells and on two occasions in the opening ten minutes they threatened Preddie's goal. Six minutes into the game a Mark Knee cross from the left was palmed out by the United keeper and despite falling nicely to Alex Haddow his rushed effort was wide from 10 yards. Minutes later Haddow was again involved, this time his low cross to the near post saw Luke Nightingale slide the ball wide under pressure from Toby Little.
United's first glimpse of an opening came on 14 minutes when Little crossed to the far post where Liam Collins collected the ball and found Kieran Knight but the striker dragged his effort across goal and wide from the edge of the area.
A lull in the game followed as both sides cancelled each other out in midfield before United were awarded a free-kick 25 yards from goal. Skipper Nevin Saroya drove the ball past the wall towards the top corner only to be denied by an excellent tip over from Rocks stopper Craig Stoner. Minutes later another Saroya dead ball saw him roll the ball neatly in to Staforde Palmer whose touch and volley was held by Stoner.
With four minutes of stoppage time played the home side took the lead in a half where chances were severely at a premium. The ball was played to the far post from the right side, Nightingale rose highest to head back across goal where centre-back Chris Breach looped a header past Preddie into the top corner of the United net.
The Rocks started the second period in fine fettle and just four minutes had been played when a deep free-kick on the left was met at the far post by Mark Knee who despite beating Preddie with his header saw the ball bounce over off the top of the crossbar.
Just minutes later controversy reined as Haddow's cross from the left appeared to be caught by Preddie only for the United keeper to have the ball headed out of his hands while being flattened by Dan Beck, amazingly a goal was awarded to the shock of fans and players alike!
With the apparent injustice still rife, Preddie was cautioned two minutes later for questioning another decision and just a minute later ran into a Bognor player after the ball had crossed the byeline and the referee deemed this sufficient to issue a second yellow card and dismiss the United keeper.
With United now down to ten men and reserve keeper John Peacock between the sticks it was almost 3-0 on 77 minutes. Scott Chamberlain fired a free-kick to the far post to be met by Andy Pearson, despite looping the ball over Peacock once more the ball bounced over off the top of the crossbar. Minutes later Danny Allen-Page under hit a pass and Beck nipped in but his lob cleared Peacock and the goal.
The final nail came once more four minutes into stoppage time as Knee was played straight through the middle and he duly drew Peacock to him before firing past him to close the game on a high for the home side.
Report by Kevin Watts. Photos by Ray Peploe.