With a new daytime job in place and an adjustment back to full time work, I kept local on Tuesday evening and headed to East Preston for their Sussex RUR Cup game against division lower Billingshurst.
With just one win to their name this season which came last Tuesday in the Sussex Senior Cup away at Crowborough, EP have found it tough with an inexperienced young side to compete this season but with three or four older heads added to the team the season might now begin to turn around.
The visitors arrived at the Lashmar in need of a positive result after picking up only two wins throughout October after a bright start to the season, however they also had success in the Sussex Senior Cup causing an upset by dispatching Newhaven from the same division as East Preston and given the home side’s league position would have been expecting to cause another surprise.
The visitors settled the quickest, playing some nice football on the grass, a little bit of frustration from East Preston which led to a couple of early yellow cards for the home side.
Despite some quick play Hurst didn’t trouble the home keeper Kurt Jenna-Swain and with EP looking to spark with Shane Brazil’s pace and the guile of Harry Russell up front, the home side took the lead on 25 minutes courtesy of the former. Having picked the ball up wide of the penalty area Brazil cut inside and his deflected shot beat Andy Barr for the first goal of the game.
There wasn’t long to wait for a second goal as four minutes later, Cam Lineham’s shot also took a deflection past Barr to put the home side in control of the game. Hurst weren’t without their own chances but very little were clear cut and kept the home side out in front.
Just before half time, the visitors conceded a third, Brazil again running at the Hurst defence and rifling a shot beyond Barr to give the home side a good cushion going into the break and seemingly no way back into the match for Billingshurst.
Early in the second half with EP looking to put the game beyond the visitors, Russell scored their fourth goal from all of twenty-five yards out and seemingly a place in the next round, a tall order for Hurst to come back from and gave EP boss Simon Hull the opportunity to substitute a couple of players.
There was a glimmer of hope around the hour mark as East Preston’s Jack Newhouse was sent off after reacting to a late challenge and the visitors sensed they could still get something from the game with plenty of time left.
The game turned into almost attack versus defence as EP sat back to defend their lead against wave after wave of attacks from the visitors as they set about trying to get back into the game.
Some resolute defending and outstanding goalkeeping from Jenna-Swain kept the scoreline intact until the 86th minute when Hurst finally broke through and Tom Edwards reduced the deficit by one.
Just when you felt it was merely a consolation for Billingshurst, Edwards popped up again bang on 90 minutes for his and the visitors second goal. You could feel a tinge of nervousness around the Lashmar despite the two goal cushion the home side still had.
With three minutes of stoppage time to negotiate, the visitors had two further chances to make it a very nervy last minute or two as a superb Jenna-Swain save tipped a rising shot over the bar to sealed the win and a trip to Selsey in the next round.
Very impressed with the way the visitors preferred to play the ball out from the back and all the way to the front, even at 4-0 down they didn’t change their philosophy and had they been able to convert one or even two of the half chances early on we would have seen a much different scoreline.
For EP, the experienced heads made a big difference and it is what the side have been crying out for over the last season and a half and for them you hope it starts to be effective in the league games before they are too far adrift of everyone which isn’t just quite yet.
Very good performances from Dan Howick, Jordan Dudas and Russell for the home side, I would be surprised to see the visitors finish below mid-table in Division One, certainly enough there for them to be happy about although possibly disappointed with the goals conceded.