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Promotion joy for the Rocks and their fans

Thousands of Rocks fans were celebrating long into the night after Bognor FC served up a promotion party to remember.

 

A record crowd of more than 3,000 supporters packed into Nyewood Lane on Monday to cheer the side on to success.

 

And it worked – with the Rocks scoring twice in the first half to clinch the win, the playoff final victory and promotion to the National League South for the first time since 2008.

 

When the final whistle came, fans of all ages were flying green and white flags high and proud as celebrations went on into the night.

 

Those at the club hailed the promotion as a “wonderful achievement”,adding it could not have been done without the support from the fans and wider community.

 

Jack Pearce, the club’s general manager, said it was one of the best days he has experienced at the club in the five decades he has been involved at Nyewood.

 

Pearce said: “Days like this make up for all the black days.

 

“I’m delighted for everyone that supports the club. I’m delighted for [manager] Jamie [Howell], Dabber [assistant manager Darin Kilpatrick] and the staff and the players.”

 

It has been a remarkable league campaign for the Rocks, who defied the odds all season to lead the way in the Ryman Premier for most of the campaign.

 

But after failing to win either of their last two league games, Bognor found themselves in the end of season playoffs.

 

The first match took place at Nyewood on Thursday against Wingate & Finchley.

 

After a tense 90 minutes the scores were locked at 1-1, until Ollie Pearce smashed home a strike to seal the victory.

 

That set-up a playoff final against Dulwich Hamlet, a side that has beaten the Rocks twice in the playoffs in the recent years.

 

The kick-off was delayed by 15 minutes to allow a record crowd of 3,119 – the highest since the FA Cup match against Swansea City in 1984/5 – to squeeze into the ground.

 

But when the match got underway, Bognor had the strongest start, scoring two quick goals.

 

The nerves began to jitter late on when James Fraser missed a penalty and then Dulwich halved the deficit.

 

But after five agonising minutes, the referee blew his whistle, sparking a pitch invasion and the letting off of flares.

 

Lots of cheers and a few tears followed as the players and staff joined supporters and officials on the pitch to lift the silverware.

 

It was a day that those who call the Nye Camp their second home will not forget anytime soon.

 

Pearce said: “After having the disappointment of having two bites of the cherry and missing out on the title I’m really pleased to have made it. It shows you the ups and downs of football.”

 

Manager Jamie Howell said he was “delighted”.

 

He added: “The lads have been brilliant all season and the two games in the playoffs were really intense.

 

“Relief is the over-riding emotion. I think there was a lot of pent up frustration after the last two league games and we were trying to keep cool.

 

“To have finally clinched promotion is amazing. I know how much it means for the supporters who have been brilliant all year.

 

“It was a brilliant year for us, far better than anticipated and it’s justice for all the hard work we have put into it.”

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