I’ve been lucky to have seen some great games of football since September and even since re-starting again in December goals, fine performances and of course drama! With restrictions and tiers forever changing where I can go to see a game the choice is becoming less varied, not that it bothers me, going to watch the game as a neutral is far easier to analyse.
Sometimes though a game sticks out as one that should or could be the best of the weekend or midweek action. Littlehampton Town vs Hanworth Villa stood out in the FA Vase, both sides unbeaten in their respective leagues, Town having disposed of a very good Sheppey Utd side in the previous round, plus it’s not often I can walk to and from a game either.
On a pretty windy afternoon which stayed for the whole game and helped both sides at times, we were treated to a pre-Christmas treat, the full works as I shall explain!
Despite the hosts hailing from Step 6 and the visitors from Step 5, the early exchanges wouldn’t have given the neutrals in a decent sized crowd any clues, Town had the better attacking intent although Villa were certainly pressing hard making Littlehampton move the ball quicker than they might have wanted.
As it was though, the visitors took the lead in the 18th minute with their first penetrating attack, Dan Thompson heading past James Binfield to put Villa in front. The goal gave the away side more impetus and began to see more possession of the ball, particularly down the left wing and more control across the midfield.
Villa struck again on the half hour, despite Binfield saving the initial shot, Joe Leslie tapped in the rebound to double the visitors lead and looked comfortable having repelled Town’s efforts.
Dan Swain went close on 39 minutes having broken away from midfield but couldn’t hit the target, however it wasn’t to be long before the home side were back in the tie.
Three minutes before half time, Joe Benn won a penalty after the centre half clattered all over the back of the striker and the referee pointed to the spot, Jordan Layton making no mistake and dispatching the penalty past keeper Terry Buss to halve the deficit going into half time.
Villa seemed content to soak up as much Littlehampton pressure as was being thrown at them across the second half and content to use the pace of Sam Merson and Leslie on the counter to fashion chances and relieve the pressure.
The visitors were lucky not to be reduced to ten men midway through the half, Bryant Akono-Bilongo kicking out at an opponent whilst on the ground and escaping with just a yellow card.
Town were certainly the team with more attacking purpose, both Swain and Dan Hegarty getting more control of the midfield ball, feeding George Gaskin and Joe Benn interchanging between the left wing and central striker.
The moment then came nine minutes from time for the drama, a corner from Mitchell Hand on the right swung into the box appeared to end up in the net only for it to be kept out by a Villa defender’s hand and the ball to then finish up as a goal.
Quite rightly the referee awarded a penalty, sent off the Villa defender after much deliberation between the opposing players, substitute Dave Herbert coolly putting the resultant spot kick into the net to level the scores.
The final five minutes saw relentless attacking from the home side, Buss making two good saves while Tom Biggs saw a shot cleared off the line when Buss was beaten which took the game to penalties.
Nine of out the ten penalties found the net, Hand blasting his effort over the bar giving the visitors the win and a place in the fourth round drawn on Monday.
Despite the windy conditions and torrential downpour for the final 15 minutes of normal time both sides worked hard to control the game with or without the wind and Town might well feel they did enough in the second half to win the game outright but as we all know not finding the net doesn’t win you games!
Lancing for me on Tuesday evening in the Southern Combination Premier Division versus Newhaven and then back to The Sportsfield on Boxing Day for the derby against Wick, very lucky I still have football to watch…………