Unsurprisingly, after Wednesday night’s Velocity Trophy win at Leatherhead, there were several changes to the starting line-up. Budd, Rents, Barker, Kealy and Parsons all came back in and Clarke, Edwards, Ovenden, Aguiar and Pearce made way.
In a first half of few chances, it was the hosts who created an early opportunity when Callum Kealy got away down the left-hand side and, after cutting inside past his marker, Liam Friend, he was denied by another ‘gate defender, as Tom Mills blocked his shot in front of goalkeeper, Henry Newcombe.
The powerful centre-forward was left frustrated again moments later when James Crane found him in a similar position but, this time, former Dover man, James Rogers cleared the danger.
After all that excitement in the opening ten minutes, those who were sensible enough to bring a good book, just in case things got sleep-inducing again, were rewarded for their pre-match preparations, as the sound of pages turning filled the air for the next twenty minutes or so.
The rest of us poor souls were reduced to playing I Spy or catching a few rays until just past the half-hour mark, when Crane’s cross resulted in Kealy’s header being tipped over by a surprisingly still awake, Newcombe.
Bookmarks then came out when the home side were awarded a free-kick within shooting range of the visitors’ goal, after David Ajiboye had been brought down by Rogers. Sam Rents curling it just wide.
It was the experienced left-back, playing against his former club, who had another chance to put Reds ahead when Parsons found him in space on the left-hand side of the penalty area. This time, Newcombe was equal to his powerful drive at the near post.
Stoppage time produced more in the way of entertainment than most of the game up to that point, as both sides looked to to take a lead into the break.
After Rent’s chance, Ajiboye went on one of his trademark runs down the right and made it all the way into the area where he was met firstly, by Newcombe and then, by a clearance from substitute, Ben Stuart, who had come on for the unfortunate Tom Wynter after only five minutes.
Sid Sollis, off the bench to replace the injured Rogers, forced Lucas into his first meaningful action of the afternoon before dragging his effort wide after a corner was swung in from the right.
Upon the resumption of play for, brace yourselves, another forty-five minutes (!) Kealy found himself one-on-one with Newcombe, only for the visiting custodian to stop him in his tracks by blocking his goalbound effort at the near post, while Stuart mopped up by getting the ball away before Ajiboye could pounce.
Just shy of the hour mark, Crane headed harmlessly over from Buddy’s corner before an awkward chance presented itself to Parsons but, sadly he couldn’t quite adjust/contort his body into an ideal shooting position and Newcombe was left with with a routine catch under his bar.
In between these two glimpses of goal, Aarran Racine had picked up a yellow card which was followed, after Parson’s relatively near miss, by a second, inside three minutes, to reduce the high-flying hosts to ten men.
The game’s only goal then suddenly broke the tension, when Lee Prescott delivered an inch-perfect set-piece for Joe Taylor to rise above a static home defence and head emphatically past Covolan.
The lead appeared to be short-lived when Ajiboye was chased into the box by Stuart and brought down by Newcombe, as he came out to meet him. Regrettably, Ollie Pearce cracked his spot-kick against the outside of the post and out for a corner.
With barely a minute of normal time remaining, the Summer signing from traditional rivals, Bognor came agonisingly close to making amends for his penalty mishap when he sent his header inches over the bar.
The final throes of the match saw a dramatic climax to proceedings, as both Pearce and Parsons were denied by the outstretched leg of the impressive Newcombe, while George Brown raced clear from the halfway line, only to see his shot beaten away by Covolan at the expense of corner. If only he’d looked up and spotted the unmarked Taylor to his right, with an open goal in front of him. Although, to be fair, Joel Colbran might have had something to say about that.