Vase exit for Littlehampton despite strong second half

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…………

The night before lockdown

The final hurrah! Well, till December football is now suspended unless you are ‘elite’ and if you are then you can’t be watched inside a stadium! 26 games in two months and a day is not a bad return considering I normally do 20-25 in a complete season.

Being that lockdown started on Thursday, classed as a key worker delivering for Amazon won’t see much change for me apart from the likelihood of getting much busier!

I made sure however that I got games in on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week for the first time, trips to AFC Varndeanians and Three Bridges in the Sussex Senior Cup followed by the final road trip for now to AFC Porchester to watch United Services Portsmouth take on Bournemouth Poppies to conclude things before the midnight deadline.

The first choice venue was Farnborough but with the Southern League calling all games off the FA Vase took centre stage with two sides I’ve never previously watched at a ground I’d never previously been to, winners all round!

AFC Porchester is certainly a spacious ground, no trouble with getting enough people in safely to watch the final game for a few weeks. Not knowing too much about Wessex League football meant this was very much an unknown quantity to watch and sometimes they can turn out to be the best games.

What I’ve got to do is make mention of the travelling Poppies support! Around 12 of them singing and chanting the whole way through, non-league songs and adapting others, these guys were fantastic throughout the 90 minutes and much to credit to them, it was great to hear, made us chuckle, thank you!

The game itself played on a sloping pitch was certainly very possession based from both teams trying to play football and out from the back as well, Services though used the ball better when they had it whilst Poppies although playing their part struggled to play a penetrative ball when it was back with them.

However, it was Poppies who took the lead on eleven minutes, a cross from the left hand side from winger Jack Kinge-Phillips looped over the head of Services keeper Tom Price to give the visitors the lead.

That early goal was pretty much as good as it got for the Poppies, relentless attacking from the hosts ensured the night was going to be a long one. There were however one or two good chances to increase the lead but none were taken and each time the hosts pressed forward for an equaliser they threatened to score.

That goal did come in the 33rd minute through Dec Seidon, a thumping shot Jones was unable to keep out despite getting a hand on it. Worse was to come just four minutes later as Andy Todd put the hosts in front and turn the tie on its head in a matter of minutes to send Services in at the break with the lead.

Services kicking down the hill in the second half tried to put the game beyond the Poppies in the opening fifteen minutes, but Jones was in the way and when he was beaten the bar came to his rescue more than once.

Just before the hour mark Services did put the game out of reach of the visitors, James Franklyn neatly played through and he slotted past Jones for the hosts third goal, on the balance of play no more than they deserved.

Both sides traded shots over the final ten minutes but neither did enough to really trouble either keeper, Services fully deserved to progress into the next round whenever that might be played.

Overall, 184 happy souls saw a game of football, the last time for 28 days, we’re keeping everything crossed that on 2nd December we’ll all be rejoicing again that football is back for good this time and no more interruptions………