Rebels undone by Rocks smash n’ grab

Game number two on Bank Holiday Monday took me the short distance across town to Woodside Road, home of Worthing FC and ‘El Classicoast’, the derby with Bognor Regis Town.

If you are a Rebel or a Rock these fixtures are the first two you look out for on the list above all else and generally they’re going to be found around a bank holiday period.

What’s also good around these kinds of fixtures is the amount of people you see that you know on both sides of the camps. Having been around the local scene for the past ten years plus, more and more faces become familiar and it was good to catch up again people you haven’t seen for a long time or even just acknowledge.

Coming into the game from the weekend, the Rebels were on the end of a fine 2-1 away win at Cray Wanderers whilst the Rocks suffered a late 2-1 home defeat at the hands of Haringey Borough, the visiting fans I spoke to were not confident about things panning out their way during the afternoon.

Worthing were quickest out the blocks with early chances for both Jasper Pattenden and Tom Chalaye but neither could find the target, the visitors content to defend and allow Worthing the ball in areas where they had to work harder to create an opening.

As the first half wore on still the Rebels created chances, Aarran Racine’s header from a Dean Cox corner was kicked off the line by Ethan Robb while Ollie Pearce shot over when well placed.

Just before half time the home side and their supporters thought the deadlock was broken, but Dayshonne Golding’s drive landed just the wrong side of the post and the two sides went into the interval level at 0-0.

Again, it was Worthing who began the half with more chances, Golding testing Amadou Tangara this time but still no way through. The same player had a golden chance from a header just before the hour mark but couldn’t direct it goal wards. Further efforts from Marvin Armstrong and Pearce fell short as you sensed it wasn’t going to be Worthing’s day.

And then completely against the run of play Bognor were in front on 62 minutes, Ashton Leigh finding the net much to the delight of the travelling fans behind Harrison Male’s goal.

Bognor sensed the game was theirs for the taking after going in front and Male just three minutes later stopped the deficit becoming two as the Rebels looked shell shocked at going behind.

As it was, the Rocks extend their lead only five minutes after the first goal as Kanye Diedrick-Roberts was put in behind the Worthing defence and gave Male no chance in the Rebels goal, jubilant scenes from the Bognor fans once again at the far end of the stadium.

Whilst the first goal shocked Worthing, the second knocked the stuffing out as although they kept pushing to create chances, the Rocks only needed to sit back and defend which they duly did.

Still the chances came for the Rebels but a combination of poor finishing and Tangara standing firm in the Rocks goal meant no way through and the points left with the visitors leaving the home side to ponder on what might have been had just one of those chances found the back of the net.

Bognor clearly came with a game plan to just defend and try and counter back out, but they were clearly lacking in the first half in that respect on the latter part. What they do need credit for is not allowing Pattenden rarely any space to run at his man and despite some good crosses into the box Cox wasn’t as effective as he can be.

What can you say about the attendance! A magnificent 2,101 were there to witness the game, my apologies for attending and not making it a round figure 2,100! It’s great to see so many fans back inside stadiums watching games up and down the country at all non-league levels, I have a feeling though this crowd figure will be hard to beat in the Pitching In Isthmian Premier Division this season.

Rustington hold off Town fightback

Bank Holiday Monday meant a choice of games to go and watch, do I head to The Hive for game I didn’t expect Barnet to win and with a hefty admission fee or watch a double header of games locally instead? As it was Barnet decided not to put tickets for online sale available until Thursday last week, too late for me so decided on the double header.

The first took me to Worthing Town at Step 7, not to be confused with the Step 3 Worthing nor the Step 6 Worthing Utd! Town were hosting Rustington having lost their opening three games whilst the visitors had won their opening two matches.

Rustington are managed by someone I know very well, Jon Tucker, and two of his backroom team in Scott Farrell and Ash Finch are also well known to me. His squad also contains a few players I’ve come across over the years in Kieron Howard, Dan Swain, Dan Cox, Matt Noble and Josh Irish, all featuring bar Howard out with a back injury.

On paper this was down as an away win and a comfortable one at that, those mentioned above have mostly played Step 5 and 6 throughout their careers but as we are well aware it’s played on grass and not paper meaning it’s not always as clear cut as should be.

Both sides were keen to play with the ball on the floor with the odd one played into the channel for willing runners, Town to their credit played out from the back nicely but fell down in the final third, whilst the visitors did the same with more success but struggled to hit the target.

Rustington eventually took the lead on 22 minutes, a well worked free kick slid in Swain and he marked his debut with the opening goal. Beyond that Rustington appeared to be trying too hard to score and overplaying in areas when taking a chance to hit the target was more often than not the better option, Chris Darwin though did smash the ball against the crossbar just four minutes later.

The Town keeper was doing his bit to prevent the visitors from adding to the scoreline and with his defence clearing a couple of efforts off the line, at the other end Billy Nash saved well with his legs just after the half hour mark to ensure Rustington went in at half time a single goal in front and with Tucker no doubt telling his players to keep it simple but be effective.

The second half followed a similar pattern to the first with the ball mostly on the deck, the visitors extended their lead just before the hour, James Butt with an easy tap in to extend the lead.

From that point with Town still unable to create very much up front, there was an expectation for Rustington to go on and run up a decent score, but having begun to sit back a little, it invited Town on to push forward and make a real fist of it.

Seven minutes after the visitors went 2-0 up, the home side pulled one back, no scorer name available that I could find before publishing. They then hit the bar just a minute later as Rustington appeared rocked and in danger of throwing away the three points.

Both sides traded chances and you felt another goal for Rustington would seal the win, Krzysztof Paraficz with a free header in stoppage time provided just that and the final whistle blown immediately after the referee has consulted with the club linesman over a possible offside.

Good little crowd of around 60-70 watching on and Tucker will be pleased they got the job done, with Swain and Noble just controlling that midfield was hard for Town to get through and trouble Nash too many times. Impressed with Finn Aldridge who I believe was starting his first game, the youngster tiring in the second half but one not afraid to run at his man.

Speaking to Tucker after the game, he felt they worked hard but it could have been easier:

‘I think you’re right with the overplaying in the first half, we did make it more difficult for ourselves. Two games in three days meant a few tired legs and with a couple of injuries as well I’m pleased to get the three points and we move onto Saturday.’

One game down and next up the South Coast El Classicoast, Worthing vs Bognor to come in blog number two.

Oak edge out struggling Wick

It’s not often you get Friday night football in Sussex but Bank Holiday weekend means an extra round of fixtures and with it the opportunity to take in Mile Oak vs Wick in the Southern Combination League Division One and also to catch up with a couple of good mates, Justin Holmes and Mark Hayward.

Mile Oak have always been a bit of a bogey team for Wick, the same when I was involved at Crabtree Park and before as well. Oak were searching for their first points of the season after four successive defeats while Tuesday night’s win for Wick over Selsey was their first since the opening day of the season.

Both sides were very cagey in the final third, possibly due to the lack of confidence with neither in a great run of form, despite keeping possession when they had the ball but unable to fashion any clear cut chances.

The first goal arrived just before the half hour mark and it went to the home side, Zac Haulkham scoring from the penalty spot after the referee took a little while to point to the spot.

The lead lasted all of two minutes as Conor Bull made himself a yard of space inside the box, shot across the hosts Aaron Stenning and into the far corner for a quick equaliser, the first effort for Wick on target.

Despite no full on assault on each other’s goal, the home side were back in the lead five minutes before half time, Jack Stenning’s drilled shot kept low and past Wickers keeper Keelan Belcher.

Once again though Wick were quickly back on level terms, a mix up in footwork and communication between Stenning and one of his defenders presented the ball to Bull inside the area and a simple tap to give him and the visitors their second goal of the game to send the sides in at half time at 2-2.

No sooner had the steam just about evaporated from the half time cuppa Mile Oak were in front for a third time. Four minutes into the second half Harry Furnell broke clear from the Wick defence and smashed the ball past Belcher, with the keeper injuring himself trying to keep the ball out.

After a spell of treatment Belcher was up to carry on, but hobbling and unable to kick the ball further than a few yards. It got worse for Wick just a few minutes later when Ross Smith drilled the ball home from 20 yards out, Belcher a mere spectator as the ball whistled past him to give the home side a two goal cushion.

Just after the hour mark, a mix up once again between Stenning and his back four, presented Ben Grey with the chance to lob the ball home and reduce the deficit to 4-3 and some hope once again for the visitors.

As it was despite using their three substitutions Wick couldn’t find a way through to grab another equaliser and although Oak finished with ten men after Haulkham was sent off for a second yellow card they kept their composure for the final couple of minutes to seal their first win of the season and condemn Wick to their fourth defeat in just six league games.

A very young Oak team in places stood up well to the more experienced visitors line up, very impressed with Furnell for Mile Oak, took his goal well and won a lot of flick-on headers which gave his team mates chances to test Belcher.

Bull stood out for Wick, not just with the two goals but his all round play made it look as if something would happen at times, but not enough Wickers added enough to the game which if they had would probably sent the three points home with them.

Based on the last few years, seven games is about the maximum you can lose if you want to be involved in the promotion race, not too many more can Wick allow to slip through their grasp if they want to get themselves out of this division at the top end, whilst this win might just kick off Oak’s season, some more answers will come on Bank Holiday Monday.

Littlehampton cause cup upset

Photograph courtesy of Gareth Spinks

Wednesday night football this week for a change and an FA Cup replay, as Littlehampton and Sittingbourne met at The Sportsfield for a chance to host Whitehawk in the First Qualifying Round.

I must apologise for almost putting the kiss of death on the Golds after they went 2-0 up on Saturday, tweeting ‘FA Cup shock on the cards’ and Sittingbourne then promptly scoring two goals to force the replay despite being down to ten men.

With a slightly delayed kick off due to the visitors traffic issues on the journey over from Kent, the crowd of 220 didn’t have to wait long for the first goal, indeed not even a minute on the watch.

Less than 30 seconds from kick off, Golds striker Joe Benn timed his run perfectly behind the Bourne defence and with extreme precision lobbed the visiting keeper Magnus Lewis from outside the right hand side of the penalty area to give the home side a dream start.

The ball over the top was to be a thorn in the side of the visiting defence, both Benn and George Gaskin almost profiting, the latter almost surprised he wasn’t flagged offside and scuffed his shot wide.

The constant press that Littlehampton employed last week at Steyning was evident again, Bourne with no time on the ball to retain possession without a Littlehampton body in front of them and despite a flurry of corners, Town were equal to everything thrown at them.

Dion Jarvis was inches away from extending the lead midway through the half, his shot fizzing over Lewis’ bar while Gaskin stung the palms of the keeper as he tipped his shot round the post.

It took until seven minutes before half time for the home side to increase their lead, Dave Herbert whose set piece deliveries into the box were causing all sorts of problems, sent another corner into the six yard box which ended up with the ball in the net, both Herbert and Jarvis claimed the goal with defenders in close proximity, it could easily have been an own goal.

Town keeper James Binfield had relatively little to do throughout the first half and kept his goal intact with good save just before the interval to give the Golds a 2-0 half time lead.

With Sittingbourne needing to push forward in search of goals, Town were given more space but defensively repelling everything coming into their box and looking dangerous with every attack going forward.

The third goal arrived just after the hour mark from Tom Biggs, who excelled in the no 10 role behind Benn, 20 yards out and fired home to the right of Lewis and the tie effectively over for the visitors.

Despite a change in personnel Bourne still struggled to make an impact on the Littlehampton goal, a point blank save from Binfield with 13 minutes remaining showed it wasn’t going to be their evening.

Gaskin put the icing on the cake with five minutes to go, slipped in by the impressive Benn, the winger slotted past Lewis to ensure an emphatic look to the scoreline and a First Qualifying Round home tie against another Isthmian side, Whitehawk, in just over a week’s time.

Benn was the stand out performer, occupying the centre halves all the time and holding the ball up well to bring the team into play. His customary goal added as well, and if his red hot form continues Town might struggle to hold onto him for a full season.

Both Jarvis and Herbert were combative in the middle of the park, an unfamiliar role for the former more used to being on the left wing and with Biggs picking up pockets of space Bourne found it hard to penetrate through the Golds team.

Despite matching the home side for corners and a good delivery into the box on the whole the visitors couldn’t find the net nor cope with the counter attack from Littlehampton and after coming back from 2-0 down with ten men at the weekend I was expecting a tougher test, maybe the disruption before the game made a difference, you can never tell with that at times.

Town’s remarkable goal scoring spree continues and with the attacking prowess they possess it’s hard to find ways to stop them playing in the final third, and with the press from back to front, it’ll take a very patient combative outfit to take points off them this season.

Rampant Littlehampton in dominant display

Tuesday night saw a trip to Steyning Town to watch them take on Littlehampton Town, the home side unbeaten after the first three games whilst their visitors were a point worse off at the start of play.

Littlehampton were without star striker Joe Benn who had contributed nine league and cup goals so far, but a very able replacement in George Gaskin moving further up the pitch complimented by Lucas Pattenden and Dion Jarvis either side.

It was Gaskin who opened the scoring after 11 minutes, Pattenden providing the cross after a period of intense pressing from the visitors which became the pattern of the game from the Golds.

Just a minute later, the same combination provided the second Littlehampton goal, the home defence unable to deal with Pattenden’s direct running and cross into the box, Gaskin unmarked to head home once again.

When you thought it couldn’t get any worse for the home side, a poor defensive clearance went straight to Tom Biggs and with patience to side step challenges and fashion an opportunity, the visitors had their third goal in three minutes, the home side shell-shocked.

The press continued from the Golds and Steyning were unable to take any time on the ball to make headway towards the visitors goal. Another poor clearance from a home defender went straight to the feet of Pattenden who skipped past his defender, shot across the keeper and into the net for 4-0.

It wasn’t too long to wait for the fifth goal to arrive, Liam Humphries unmarked at a corner headed home inside the six yard box with just under ten minutes left to play before half time.

With the interval looming, Jarvis bundled in a remarkable sixth goal on 40 minutes, again another cross from the right hand side where Pattenden had been so influential and capped a superb if unexpected half for Littlehampton.

The second half not surprisingly didn’t live up to its predecessor and in all honesty for the Golds it didn’t need to. There were chances to extend the lead further at times, Gaskin close to a hat-trick, Biggs dancing his way through more than once but unable to hit the net.

The hosts did have chances themselves but failed to properly test James Binfield in the visitors goal and a comfortable win was wrapped up without needing to push hard in the second half.

This was the third time in five league and cup matches that the Golds had hit six goals, all away from home and if Sittingbourne were watching ahead of the weekend’s FA Cup tie then they certainly went away with something to think about, Bourne themselves having dispatched Lancing last weekend 4-0 in their opening league match.

For the hosts a first league defeat of the season and it was overheard the home side were missing quite a few first team regulars but I’m sure their supporters certainly weren’t expecting to be turned over so easily.

Steyning also face an FA Cup tie this weekend as they host Sutton Common Rovers, a chance to put league matters to one side and grab some much needed winners money, they will however need to not be so generous defensively and if their opponents were watching they certainly would have come away with a game plan to make it a potentially uncomfortable weekend for the hosts.

National League North and South preview 2021/22

This coming weekend sees kick off for the National League North and South divisions, a further week to wait for the top division to get going but the two underlying sets of teams will be desperate to complete the new season for the first time in three years.

Two years without a completed season and minimal promotion from both divisions and no relegation has in my opinion led to a bit of stagnation, similar to Steps 3 and 4.

There is no doubt in my mind clubs are desperate to move and some of the signings this summer have been what I call intent! Intent to win, intent to compete, intent to give it a go.

Over this blog I plan to take a look at those I feel should be in the mix come the end of the season in both divisions, this game of opinions won’t please everyone and I don’t want it to, that’s the beauty of the game we love.

Starting in the North and being a southerner I can’t confess to following it as closely as the other end of the country but the eyes are on it don’t you worry! In both divisions there are some big clubs, big by name and history and big by the support they command. That though means nothing when it comes down to 11 vs 11 on the pitch.

When the season finished for these clubs in February, some let out a sigh of relief that things hadn’t gone to plan, namely Darlington and Blyth to pick out just two. Others such as Gloucester, AFC Fylde and a clutch of clubs just outside those play-offs who felt they had a chance of getting into those end of season games and probably let out sighs of anger instead.

And when you look at the quality that have arrived this summer in the North division, you know teams mean business and are desperate to get promoted. Striker Clayton Donaldson returns to York City to form an impressive front line with Kurt Willoughby and Jason Gilchrist, Steve Watson’s men were on the fringes of the play-off’s last year and those three the reason why they’re one of the bookies favourites.

AFC Fylde under Jim Bentley will be expected to challenge for the title as a full time outfit and having secured a majority of last season’s squad Bentley will hope continuity provides them with promotion foundations along with Stephen Dobbie as their stand out signing.

Gloucester will be looking to show last season was no flash in the pan and like quite a few other clubs have also retained most of last season’s squad. With experience at both ends of the park in Jake Cole and Matt McClure manager Paul Groves will be expecting more of the same from his side.

Boston Utd are another team who are one of the favourites to progress in front of their own fans at the new Jakemans Community Stadium. Impressive signings added to last season’s ranks include experienced defender Jake Wright and striker Danny Elliott, the latter a National League promotion winner at Hartlepool just last season.

A season that promises so much in the North, the title could go to a number of clubs in all honesty and I think if you finish in front of these four clubs then it’s all yours. One last word on this, the likes of York, Darlington, Chester, Gateshead and Spennymoor will believe the chance is there for them too and I can’t wait to watch the race unfold over the next nine months.

The South meanwhile has a few friends of mine in it, but that’s not going to cloud the judgement as we take a look at their division. Like the North division there were massive disparities in games played and while Dorking Wanderers were starting to pull away and an eight point gap from the last team in the play-off’s to the next games in hand for those below could have changed a lot for everybody.

As strong as Dorking were last year, they’ve strengthened again. Experienced keeper Lee Worgan and midfielder Bobby-Joe Taylor are two in the door and of course the goals of Jason Prior will keep them in the hunt. Dartford under Steve King are always there or thereabouts and the signing of striker Jake Robinson and once again shows they mean business.

Eastbourne Borough were third when the season ended, surprising a few people but not themselves. Danny Bloor is a very canny manager and gets the best out of his players, despite losing keeper Franco Ravizzoli to MK Dons they have retained most of last season’s squad and their strong link with QPR should once again see one or two on loan at Priory Lane.

Billericay Town under Kevin Watson are starting to build a good team and I expect them to be in the mix. Like quite a few other clubs in their division the ability to persuade players to drop down from the National League top division can well be the difference in quality, Charlie Lee and Marvel Ekpiteta are two who have made the move and with Watson able to keep the likes of Lawrie Wilson at New Lodge then play-off’s should be the ambition.

Maidstone Utd and Havant & Waterlooville will also be expecting better this time around, Haken Hayrettin at the Gallagher Stadium has also put together a squad with all his hallmarks on it while Paul Doswell will be hoping after a much changed squad last season didn’t quite get going consistently things improve this time around.

I like the signings Steve McKimm has made at Tonbridge Angels and they should certainly improve on what was a steady campaign last time out, the experience of Doug Loft has added to what is already a good spine of the team in Jonny Henly, Sonny Miles and Joe Turner.

Ebbsfleet have also recruited well, nine in total I believe it is now, and were going close last year at the time of the season’s suspension. Like a few others they have persuaded players to drop into the South such as Alex Finney and Craig Tanner from Aldershot, Joe Martin from Stevenage, whilst Elliott Romain has moved across from Dartford.

Not surprisingly Dorking and Dartford are seen as the favourites and like the North division, finish in front of those two and the title will more than likely be yours. However, this is a division of firepower and it might well come down to goal difference if someone is going to steal a march on another or someone is going to spring a surprise from within the pack of clubs I haven’t mentioned.

Come April next year we’re talking about an exciting season full of moments, drama, title wins, play-off wins and heartache and relegation despair, only then will we know football is truly back……………..

Live streaming shouldn’t be ending

Last season we know was a different and difficult time across football, especially at non-league level. As clubs, as fans, as league officials, in a lot of cases we learnt to adapt as the season moved along its way.

One of things that happened and needed to very quickly was streaming of games mostly at National League level due to the branding of the ‘elite’ tag meaning they weren’t allowed spectators whilst those at Steps 3 and below saw their fans back inside until the suspension and ultimate culmination of their season came along.

Some of the quality was very good, some pretty shoddy and some well you wondered what you paid for in the first place. Granted a lot was put together in a short space of time but some clubs were still providing, well not sure you could call it a service, ropey efforts in February.

But, it seems, the FA who are re-instating the UEFA ruling, believe we’re all back to normal already, that the blackout from 3pm onwards on a Saturday returns in force this season once again but you have to ask yourself why?

Levels above non-league I fully understand, there are TV deals in place and to a degree you can argue the same for the National League clubs despite the North and South clubs not getting live coverage, so then why can’t it continue from Steps 3 and those below them?

Last season was innovative as it needed to be and while we are in a position to watch a game at all levels this season there are going to be people not comfortable with attending games at their local clubs.

Much like it’s personal choice about whether you wear a mask in public places or continue to want to social distance, the same could be said about attending a match in a stadium well populated by people, but by the same token there will some who are not comfortable with this.

Should they be discriminated against unable to watch their team when streaming games from the lower levels? Surely it’s going to add to the income home teams need to replace from last season and before, would it actually encourage away fans who are unable to travel to tune in?

I believe it would and I think this is a massive own goal of the highest proportions from the FA, I can’t say I’m surprised at all, I mean they’ve only had a few months to have a think about this and maybe actually do something for the good of the game, but hey let’s not get in the way of the shoddy job they do as the national association.

But the daft thing is it doesn’t appear to apply to midweek games, it’s about as clear as a government policy isn’t it! As long as you avoid the 2.45 – 5.15 section on a Saturday you’re free to do as you please but I can’t see clubs streaming bit parts of their season.

It should surely be an option if clubs want to explore it, there will be many below NL level that didn’t stream anything last year but why can they not give it go this year, floating fans might be picked plus also those visiting fans who can’t spare the time to travel could watch it live or even later in the day as a recorded option.

That’s not to say it will take away the experience of watching live inside a ground and nor would I want it to, it’s all about exploring the options for those less fortunate and those that need a little more time to feel comfortable around groups of people once again.

Surely, the FA should be lobbying for change due to our football system compared to the rest of Europe? At times though with the FA you’ve got to wonder if it’s 1921 we’re living in and not 2021………

Utd aiming to upset the status quo




A lot of towns and cities across the country host two teams, in some cases more, and at all levels of the game, the question here in this piece is can the town of Littlehampton in West Sussex be able to do the same?

Littlehampton Utd, born from a move of a club from the nearby village of Clymping, are one such club aiming to make their presence known and challenge the hierarchy within the Arun area.

Unable to progress as a club within the village due to a lack of floodlights and local residents against the idea, the club moved out and pitched up at The Sportsfield, home of Littlehampton Town.

They duly renamed the club in 2018 and benefitted from a beautiful playing surface along with floodlights and also a bar for players and supporters to use before and after the game.

But with the club wanting to expand itself and the capacity to host their new Under 23 side along with the various age groups that Town had to offer, Utd moved out over the summer and headed down the road to groundshare with East Preston FC at The Lashmar, a ground that will host two first teams and two Under 23 teams at the very least.

Had they tried to host both their senior teams at different venues then an increase in costs would have been seen and with clubs, nearly all clubs, managing to survive the last 16 months on very little football and very little income, cheap has to come into the reckoning.

As the Sportsfield is shared with the cricket club and with Town needing to maximise their availability there was little room for Utd to play home pre-season friendlies which again saw the need for somewhere new to play.

Under the chairmanship of David Chace, he appointed former East Preston man Chris Horner to run the first team for the 2021/22 season in which they are aiming to finish in the top four and be in the promotion mix to Division One, a progression they can now make with floodlights.

There is a long term aim to return to Littlehampton when the time is right and if they can find the area or land which would accommodate them and whilst away from the town the opportunity is there to build stronger foundations ready for the time to move on.

Currently they are putting in plans to improve the matchday experience for supporters and have recently recruited a PA announcer to give it that little extra edge, there are plans to bring more sponsors on board and to introduce a matchday raffle, small things in some cases but also vital to get things going.

With so many clubs within a five mile radius around the town of Littlehampton you have to put yourself out there a little bit more to attract players and make your club stand out, especially if you aren’t paying players to get out there on a Saturday afternoon.

That to me appears to be the only stumbling block, the amount of teams that are drawing on the same players Utd will want to attract to the club otherwise given what happens around the country there is no reason under the right leadership and progress there can be two senior Littlehampton teams, watch this space!

Pagham open account for the season

There was a little bit of a choice for games on Tuesday evening although some were a little hard to find than others. One criticism of the Southern Combination website is trying to find when cup games are being played, if it’s FA Cup or FA Vase it doesn’t seem a problem and with not every club prolific on social media, I’m sure there are a few fans lost, vital revenue for this season.

In the end there were about four or five choices and I plumped for the reversed fixture of Pagham and Broadbridge Heath, Heath’s home ground suffering a few issues with the travelling community.

The Lions began the season on Saturday with a 4-0 home defeat to Little Common, a surprising one for me as I tipped Kerry Hardwell’s team to do pretty well again this year given their squad contains a lot of players with experience of what is now the Pitching In Isthmian League.

The visitors meanwhile missed out on opening their campaign on Saturday after a heavy downpour put paid to the game at Hassocks, in contrast to the bright sunshine I was experiencing at Arundel on the opposite side of Sussex.

It was Heath who started the game in strong fashion as the Lions struggled to get onto the ball, and the visitors took the lead in just the fourth minute. Full back Cameron Watts’ delicious through ball sent Charlie Parmiter away through the middle of the Pagham defence and he slotted home past Connor Kelly.

With Pagham trying to play a high line throughout the first half, there were opportunities for Parmiter and Jamie Taylor to try and exploit as the Lions midfield pair of Joe Clarke and Ross Edwards found it hard to match their opposing counterparts.

Heath were only in front for 12 minutes, Pagham growing into the game and finding Callum Chalmers with acres of space on the right wing time after the time the goal was due to come, but from the opposite flank.

With Darren Currie on the phone in one ear, concentrating on the action was a little bit more difficult! Jack Langford was the scorer of the Lions equaliser as the home side grew into the game, Edwards and Clarke now beginning to get the measure of their opponents.

Both Langford and Chalmers were the out ball for the home side, both hugging their respective touchline and willing runners at the Heath backline and six minutes before the break Langford had his and Pagham’s second, a cross into the box from right to left found the winger and he smashed the ball home to put the Lions into a half time lead, although Heath will feel they had enough chances to be level or leading.

The second half was a very entertaining affair, Heath having switched Watts, who was the standout player for the visitors in the first half, into a more central role but didn’t quite deliver as well as he did in the first 45.

Heath certainly nullified the ball out to Chalmers and it was looking more likely that if the Lions were to score again it was going to come from Langford, either by creation or a shot on goal.

But, neither side were able to test each other’s keeper sufficiently and as we entered the final ten minutes when legs were beginning to tire Heath began to crank up the pressure.

Substitute Ben Cooksley had a glorious chance to equalise from a Jamie Taylor flick, but the angle took him wide and shot into the side netting. Moments later Taylor was in front of goal but volleyed wide after a great cross from the left hand side and you sensed it wasn’t going to be the visitors night.

Heath did have the ball in the net in stoppage time but was ruled out for offside and Hardwell’s men held on for their first win of the new season. Both sides now head into FA Cup action this coming weekend, facing fellow Southern Combination Premier Division sides in Littlehampton Town and Steyning Town.

Great to see Langford back out on the pitch with two well taken goals, and as Hardwell stated after Saturday’s defeat the lack of being able to get players on the pitch in pre-season due to the ‘ping’ etc you could see that across the game players needed a breather.

Heath will be wondering how they didn’t get anything from the game considering the amount of chances they created throughout but not enough hit the target and of course that is the difference, but it’s only 1-2 games into a 38 game season for both and plenty more opportunity to get points on the board.

Defeat for Arundel as Midhurst claim opening day points

After pre-season action it was finally time for league action and points on offer as 2021/22 kicked off for me and James Easton at Mill Road Arundel in the Southern Combination League Division One.

Midhurst and Easebourne were the visitors on a glorious sunny afternoon in West Sussex with both sides wanting to get their campaign off to a winning start. A summer of change for the Mullets in Jason Mines coming in to manage the team, assisted by Arundel veteran Richard Towers, both I know well from Wick FC days.

With Mines unavailable for the game, Towers was assisted by Aaron Millar, another known to me from those days at Crabtree Park and with a very young side in the red and white, it was interesting to see how they would fair against a visiting side who were in and around the thick of the promotion race last season before a halt was called.

Both sides were keen to knock the ball around on the slightly long playing surface which did make passing a little difficult if not needing to be very precise. Towers was forced into an early change on 26 mins, Ollie Hawkins replacing a limping James Ayling.

The Mullets thought they had taken the lead a minute later; the impressive Josh Mines shot was tipped onto the post by Josh Bird and then rolled along the goal-line without going over.

Midhurst did have the ball in the net on 35 minutes but the effort was ruled out for offside whilst five minutes later Mines had other shot tipped by Bird, this time onto the crossbar.

Then came the big talking point in the game and one that effectively decided the second half mentality. Hawkins was adjudged to have fouled his man just outside the penalty area and was promptly sent off, protests from the Arundel sideline that the decision was harsh, backed up by some independent spectators view that the foul wasn’t even really worthy of a yellow, the referee actually quite card happy throughout the game with yellow cards flying here there and everywhere.

The free kick came to nothing and the sides went in level at half time, both probably feeling they could have been a goal in front.

A man short saw Arundel look to contain the visitors and some dogged defending at times ensured they made it look as if Midhurst were going to be denied anything more than an opening day point, Chris Wyatt coming closest to breaking the deadlock hitting the post just after the hour mark.

As it was the pressure told just minutes later, substitute Liam Dreckman slotted home after a bit of pinball inside the area, latching onto the loose ball and giving Mullets keeper Jack Hickman no chance.

Marcus Bedford doubled the visitors lead two minutes later with a smart finish inside the area as the extra man was starting to pay dividends for the Stags and the tired legs of the young Arundel side were starting to flag.

Ten minutes from time the seal was put on the visitors second half performance, fellow substitute Kieran Carter tapped in at the far post for a third Midhurst goal after a superbly flighted cross from the left hand side to send the Stags home with the three points.

No doubt the game changed on that sending off decision, both sides were fairly well matched despite a clear pitting of youth against experience in favour of the visitors, but the extra man for the Stags was clearly the difference with Arundel unable to fashion many notable second half chances.

So there we go, number one in the bag for the season and Mr Easton’s first trip to Arundel ticked off the list, fingers crossed I can find a destination for Tuesday or Wednesday evening.