Lions find their bite

Getting to a game every Saturday and Tuesday at the moment is like a little god send, not just for me but for many others up and down the country in what are still very difficult and uncertain times.

Having picked up the Non League paper this morning to read that the Northern Premier League have quite rightly drawn up plans in case their season is curtailed or at the very least suspended for a few weeks, it makes me more determined to get around as much as I can and enjoy every ounce of it just in case, although the fear factor is a little less down here on the South Coast.

The weekend trip took me down the road to Pagham, staying local as I needed to work in the evening. The Lions have had a solid start to the season with just one defeat in seven league games whilst their visitors had also just a single defeat having played nine Southern Combination games.

Before the season ended prematurely in March, Lions boss Kerry Hardwell had begun to turn fortunes around and the club were comfortably heading away from the bottom six and with the quality of summer signings they made this time around I was expecting them to be comfortable top ten this time around, no pressure!

This definitely had the hallmark of a decent game to watch but the hosts in all honesty were rarely troubled throughout the ninety minutes, indeed the first quarter of an hour should have seen them in front and out of sight, Jazz Rance denied by the legs of keeper Jason Tibble followed by Jack Barnes blazing over unmarked from six yards out just moments later.

Uckfield were using the counter to try and get something going and were working hard to try and fashion something in the final third, but Pagham were making sure keeper Connor Kelly had little to do whilst Tibble at the other end kept the Lions strikers at bay with some superb goalkeeping.

The breakthrough came finally on 42 minutes, ex-Wicker Sam Connolly let fly from fully 25 yards and the ball squirmed through the hands of Tibble above his head and dropped into the net for the Lions to have the half time lead.

The second half began in similar fashion to the first and Pagham should have increased their lead 52 minutes when a mix up between Tibble and one of his defenders almost allowed Joe Clarke to lob the ball into an unguarded net.

It wasn’t a surprise to see the Lions extend their lead, Rance netting from the penalty spot after an Uckfield defender fouled Grant Radmore in the box on 62 minutes.

Uckfield then to their credit seemed to find more purpose in the attacking third but were still unable to penetrate the Pagham back line, marshalled superbly by Jack Williamson. There were times the game threatened to boil over with a few challenges the referee enforced with a free kick but no yellow card to follow, all twenty-two players stayed on the pitch, just.

That win moves Hardwell’s side into sixth place in the table while Uckfield remain in third place two points behind the leaders Horley Town having played two games more.

Pagham have certainly continued on from last season’s late form and I fully expect them to be in and around that top ten this season, Hardwell has a good balance across the pitch and with three or four of his squad with experience of playing two levels higher it bodes well for the rest of the campaign.

However, still a lot of football to be played as we’ve only reached October and after this month there is a lot less midweek football to fit in too, the pressure comes off a little bit but the intensity has to remain.

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