BOGNOR suffered their second dose of cup-final heartbreak in successive seasons when they went down 3-0 to Ryman one south champions Peacehaven in the sun at the Amex Stadium.
They ended up well beaten and will look back at a dominant spell in the first half when they missed numerous good chances to go ahead.
It’s Bognor’s third county cup final loss in five years and means that what’s been a good season for the men from Nyewood Lane has ended in double disappointment - with this defeat coming after their loss in the Ryman premier play-offs.
The Rocks arrived at the Amex looking to make up for the disappointment of last year, when they were beaten 4-0 in the final by Brighton’s development side.
They were bidding to win it for the first time since 1987 - that having been their sixth win in eight seasons.
They were up against an up-and-coming Peacehaven side who have risen quickly through the divisions, straight from the Sussex League to the Ryman premier, in which they will face Bognor next season.
Peacehaven, known as the Magpies, included two ex-Rocks in their 16 - full-back Jon Marzetti started and winger Callum Saunders, son of team boss Shaun Saunders, was on the bench.
Kick-off was delayed by half an hour after a serious accident brought traffic to a halt on the eastbound A27 just west of Falmer.
Most of the Rocks fans were grouped at one end of the ground - instead of along one side like last year - and they were making plenty of noise right from before kick-off.
The fact there was a small area of terracing at the back of their section was helping the atmosphere - and getting over the problems experienced last year when some fans were stopped from standing up and singing.
The first chance fell to Peacehaven in the second minute when a move started by Marzetti saw the ball fall to Josh Jones 20 yards out - but his volley was always curling wide of Anthony Ender’s goal.
Within a minute the Magpies went even closer when Tom Burton met a Jones cross only to see his close-range poke towards goal hit a defender’s heel and go out for a corner.
Bognor took a while to get into their stride but did go close with their first effort at goal on 11 minutes, Ollie Pearce firing across Anthony Di Bernardo and just wide of the post aftr pouncing on a loose pass across the P&T back-line.
Dodd forced Di Bernardo into his first save with a fierce drive when played into space in the area, then a defender blocked a Rocks effort from 20 yards after Stuart Axten’s header from a corner was only half-cleared.
It was all Bognor now and James Crane was dened by Di Bernardo as he tried to flick a through-pass past him from an acute angle.
The Rocks were even closer to the opener in the 19th minute when Dodd hit Sammy Igoe’s lay-off beyond Di Bernardo then watched as it hit one post, bounced along the goalline, struck the other post and came out to be cleared.
At least Bognor were in their stride now after a slow start and Crane tested Di Bernardo again from 15 yards as if to prove the point.
Igoe was next to try to luck but was too high with a shot from outside the box as he ran on to a Wills short pass.
The Rocks failed to capitalise on a rush of blood by Di Bernardo. He came out of his area to try to beat Wills to a pass but could only force the Rocks captain wide - but when the cross came in with the keeper still getting back to his position, Dodd fluffed the header.
It was a spell in which their failure to score was going to come back and haunt Jamie Howell’s side.
P&T midfielder Lloyd Cotton needed treatment after a heavy challenge by Craig Robson on the half-hour mark. The free-kick was swung into the Bognor box but came to nothing.
After all that Rocks pressure, it was Peacehaven who took the lead in the 34th minute. Tom Lawley scored it, beating Anthony Ender at his near post with a sweetly-hit low drive.
Bognor took a while to gather themselves for an attempt at a reply and the best they could muster was a weak shot from Scott Chamberlain six minutes before the break.
They went closer a minute before the interval when a near-post flick from a left-sided corner saw the ball bounce agonisingly past everyone, just missing the post.
Pearce wasn’t far off equalising in the first minute of the second half, curling a nice shot just wide of Di Bernardo’s near post.
A Wills corner sparked a mild appeal for a penalty when Robson went to ground as he tried to meet the kick, but the referee was unmoved.
Tuck sidefooted horribly wide when Robson teed him up inside the box from another Wills corner on 56 minutes.
Peacehaven nearly made Bognor pay for that miss when they went straight to the other end for Charlie Walker to fire a 25-yard drive just beyond the angle of bar and post.
Ender came to the Rocks’ rescue twice on the hour - clutching Jones’ gentle goalward lob then parrying Lawley’s attempt at a second goal away for a corner.
Arron Hopkinson was warming up for Bognor but before he could come on, Peacehaven netted what looked like it might be a killer second. Burton was the scorer, heading in from close range at the far post after a right-sided corner had been flicked across the face of goal to wrongfoot the Rocks defence.
Hopkinson replaced Chamberlain as Bognor looked to somehow turn the tide.
Walker pulled up with an injury as he chased a through-pass. Jamie Brotherton was the man to replace him.
Hinshelwood fired in a low cross from the right but Di Bernardo got there before Dodd.
With precious few other options on the bench, it was impossible not to think of what might have been had Dan Thompson and Ben Johnson not both picked up end-of-season three-match bans for red cards - especially as striker Thompson’s was a particularly harsh sending-off for a bit of handbag action late in the win over Wingate & Finchley.
Both sides made a change on 73 minutes - Saunders replaced Lawley for the Magpies, while Dan Sackman came on in place of Dodd for the Rocks. That saw Robson move up front to try to unsettle the P&T defence.
Bognor thought they had pulled one back in a 75th-minute scramble but the linesmen said the ball had gone out for a goal-kick in the lead-up to the chance.
Sub Saunders ran through for a shot that Ender got down well to stop before Wes Mills was yellow-carded for a crude foul on Tuck.
As the game entered its final ten minutes, there was no real sense there was a late surge of pressure to come from the Rocks.
Pearce tried to direct a header goalwards from a long ball into the box but it went well wide.
Youngster Ryan Morey - who could well be part of the first-team picture next season - came on for the final few minutes, replacing the hard-working Pearce.
Josh Jones added insult to injury by adding a third in injury time, poking the ball past Ender from close range.
At the end, coach Darin Killpartrick. manager Howell and the players trooped over to the Rocks fans to thank them for their superb backing throughout the game.
Rocks: Ender, Hinshelwood, Crane, Tuck, Axten, Robson, Chamberlain, Wills, Dodd, Igoe, Pearce. Subs: Sackman, Hopkinson, Hayes, Morey, Wollers.
Peacehaven: Di Bernardo, Marzetti, Metcalf, McLaughlin, Jones, Millis, Lawley, Cotton, Walker, Burton, J Jones. Subs: Saunders, Brotherton, Hammond, Timms, Hamilton.
Ref: Dean Treleaven
Report by STEVE BONE
Full coverage, including pictures and reaction, in the Bognor Observer on Thursday