Isthmian League Premier Division: Blues draw a blank against 10-man Bognor but come away with a point
Bishop's Stortford were unable to make numerical advantage count in their opening game in the new Pitching In Isthmian League, Premier Division season.
They returned from West Sussex with a point after a 0-0 draw at Bognor Regis Town, who played with 10 men from the 25th minute after captain Craig Robson was given a straight red card for a high and late tackle on Ryan Charles.
The Rocks even had chances to win the game late on, but the Blues remain unbeaten in the league since the start of the curtailed last season.
The hosts' Nathan Odokonyero had the first chance of the match, cutting in from the right and forcing a save from Jack Giddens. Ex-Blue Jordy Mongoy was a constant threat and wanted a penalty early on, but Anthony Church won the ball cleanly.
Robson shot just wide from Mongoy's lay-off to the edge of the box, while at the other end Jonny Giles's through ball towards pre-season in-form striker Frankie Merrifield was cut out by a defender.
Mark Haines was brilliant in the Blues defence, reading the game and intercepting cleanly to snuff out the danger, denying Ashton Leigh the chance of a one-on-one with a last-ditch tackle.
In the incident which resulted in Robson being given his marching orders for the foul on Charles, Giles' resulting free kick was headed away.
From the next Blues attack, Rooks keeper Amadou Tangara was quick to dive on the loose ball from Cass’s flick-on. Cass tested Tangara again, with a low shot from the edge of the box to which he was equal.
Leigh had a shot deflected behind for a corner, which Merrifield headed away, and Giddens saved the follow-up effort before the referee blew for half-time.
Merrifield was straight into the book after the break, for a foul on Joe Cook, before Cass had two shots blocked following a corner.
Mongoy ran half the length of the pitch down the right before shooting just wide from a tight angle, and Charles was denied from close range by Cook with a sliding block.
A well-worked free kick from deep put Mongoy through on goal, only to be denied by Haines with a last-ditch tackle, and Jack Thomas cleared the danger from the resulting corner.
Cass led a counter-attack and found Giles in the middle, but Tangara was out quickly to cut down the angle and ultimately he saved the low shot.
Tangara saved again from Giles’s long-range effort, and Haines started the next attack, briefly turning into a flying winger and feeding Merrifield, who shot wide after a one-two with Charles.
Church curled a shot wide from the edge of the box, after smart wing play by Charles, before Tangara saved a shot from Cass, who had broken through the defence into the box.
The Blues did have the ball in the back of the net, off Merrifield's head from Thomas’s chipped pass, only for the referee’s assistant to flag for offside.
In the dying stages, it was the hosts who looked more likely to win, with Mongoy shooting wide with team-mates waiting in the middle for a tap-in and Haines making three blocks in as many minutes from low crosses by Mongoy on the right wing to preserve the clean sheet.
Bognor Regis Town: 1 Amadou Tangara, 2 Jake Flannigan, 3 Calvin Davis, 4 Ethan Robb, 5 Joe Cook, 6 Craig Robson (c), 7 Gavin McCallum (Joe Dandy 26), 8 Charlie Bell (Phil Brown 62), 9 Nathan Odokonyero, 10 Ashton Leigh (Ben Mendoza 68), 11 Jordy Mongoy. Unused subs: 16 Tyrone Madhani, 17 Kayne Diedrick-Roberts.
Blues: 1 Jack Giddens, 3 Archie Edwards, 4 Anthony Church (14 Archie Jones, 73), 6 Ryan Henshaw (c), 7 Jonathan Giles, 9 Jake Cass, 10 Frankie Merrifield, 12 Jack Thomas, 15 Ryan Charles (11 Aaron Greene, 68), 17 Mark Haines, 18 Rio Davidson-Phipps (5 Sam Robbins, 20). Unused subs: 16 Charlie Allum, 19 Joe Gardner.