Littlehampton fall just short in FA Cup drama

Photograph courtesy of Martin Denyer (@MartinDenyer)

The FA Cup! Last season I managed to get to a game in every round until the 4th qualifying round when National League teams entered and of course they were barred from having spectators.

Without really realising I’ve managed to do the same so far this time around with Sunday’s 1st qualifying round tie between Littlehampton Town and their Sussex neighbours Whitehawk.

Having seen Town dispatch Sittingbourne a week and a half ago in the Preliminary Round, it was time to see if they could repeat the feat of sending another Pitching In Isthmian side out of the competition.

A glorious afternoon of Sussex sunshine greeted the crowd of 525 and the players as Town wasted no time in getting started. An early goal and a high press is the way Littlehampton seem to start in most games and this one was no different.

A floated Dave Herbert free kick into the box was met by an unmarked Dion Jarvis whose header was saved by Nathan Stroomberg, but George Gaskin was on hand to tap in after just two minutes. That certainly signalled to the Hawks they were in for a game this afternoon.

The lead however only lasted nine minutes as Town struggled to clear the ball when it came into their box and Henry Muggeridge, who was pivotable for the Hawks all afternoon, made sure the ball ended up in the back of the net for the equaliser.

Ten minutes later the visitors were in front, a clumsy push on Muggeridge by Lewis Jenkins gave the referee no option but to point to the spot and James Fraser gave the Hawks the lead for the first time of the afternoon.

Gaskin had a chance to pull the scores level again two minutes later, after beating the offside trap, he lifted the ball wide of the on-rushing Stroomberg but with not enough purchase on the ball it was cleared to safety.

Just after the half hour, Town had a penalty of their own. Lucas Pattenden’s strong run down the right found Jarvis in the box, who was brought down and Herbert made no mistake with the spot kick restoring parity once again.

With the game flowing end to end Jarvis then found himself clear of the Hawks defence and while his chip beat Stroomberg, who came then stopped and found himself in no man’s land, it also beat the crossbar.

It was Hawks then back in front, once again the Town defence unable to clear the ball convincingly and Muggeridge slotted home his second and the visitors third, a half time lead for Whitehawk and a chance for the 525 to catch 15 minutes of breath.

Just before the hour mark Town should have levelled once again, Joe Benn with an exquisite through ball to Gaskin saw the striker lift the ball over Stroomberg but unfortunately just over the bar. The Golds though didn’t have long to wait for their third goal, Jarvis with a strong run to the by line, the ball finding it’s way to Benn at the far post who volleyed past Stroomberg for 3-3.

Town then created the better chances and looked the more likely to score with Hawks struggling to break through the Golds back line and giving away possession cheaply in the middle of the park.

And out of nothing came two sucker punches, six minutes to go and Callum Edwards struck home a fourth goal for the visitors, Binfield a little slow getting down and the ball was past him. Worse to come two minutes after that goal Omarr Lawson scored a fifth with Binfield slightly unsighted from the bodies in front of him and looked a now comfortable passage into the next round for the visitors.

However, Gaskin and Town had other ideas as the front man curled in his second and Golds fourth in the final minute to leave a nervy five or so minutes of stoppage time for Hawks to negotiate, but for all the pressing from the home side they couldn’t find one more goal to take it to a replay and bow out after the most pulsating game of football of the 10 I’ve watched so far this season.

Having seen a lot of the home side so far there is no doubt they’ve competed very well against two sides from a division higher and with a strong start to their league season as well they are certainly heading in the right direction.

Great to see a fantastic attendance once again, as has been the case at grounds up and down the country, I just hope people enjoyed what they saw and carry on coming to watch the football on offer.

Town prove too strong for local rivals

Bank Holiday fixtures don’t always happen on the Monday they’re set for, agreement between the two clubs will see some games moved to a Tuesday and in the case of down here on the South Coast Littlehampton and East Preston Wednesday and the chance to squeeze an extra game in to watch.

Most of my games so far have been in the local area and I have seen both these sides on quite a few occasions in the past six weeks and it gives me an opportunity to do a separate piece for the Littlehampton Gazette as well.

Contrasting starts so far for both teams, Littlehampton with only one league defeat so far this season and East Preston yet to win a game in the Southern Combination Premier Division, but derby games bring about a different edge even at this level so it wasn’t going to be a stroll in the park for the home side.

Joint boss of the Golds George Gaskin sat this one out whilst his co-cohort Mitch Hand got some minutes on the pitch ahead of the weekend’s FA Cup tie with Whitehawk, Tom Biggs was also missing from what’s become the regular front four in the home side’s line up.

EP were as close to full strength for Simon Hull as they could be, but they almost found themselves a goal behind inside five minutes, Dion Jarvis unable to find the back of the net.

The visitors were acquitting themselves well to the game, they came with a worked on game plan but it was the hosts clearly creating the chances. Joe Benn’s first sight of goal came on 23 minutes when he finally found some space in the penalty area but dragged his shot wide of Sam Marsden’s goal. Marsden then produced a fine save just after the half hour mark to keep the scores level.

Then came the best effort of the half for EP, Shane Brazil took a ball over the top of the Town defence only to be denied by James Binfield one on one and the scores remained level at 0-0 going into the interval.

That scoreline last just a minute into the second half, Dave Herbert finding himself unmarked in the box when the cross came in and despite a small suspicion of handball, slotted the ball past Marsden for the opening goal.

The goal opened the game up a little as EP needed to come out more and be braver, but Town increased their lead on 55 minutes, a strong run from Lucas Pattenden saw Marsden save his shot but pushed the ball out to the feet of Benn and he made no mistake from six yards out.

Jarvis could have sealed the win after the hour mark, put clean through one on one with Marsden but the keeper saved well and the same again from substitute Scott Packer minutes later.

Brazil had a very good chance to halve the deficit 13 minutes from time but shot wide of Binfield’s goal having created the space for himself in the box whilst Lew Broughton couldn’t quite get on the end of a free kick that would have made things interesting had either effort found the net.

Town did get their third goal one minute from time, a mazy run from Jarvis saw the winger hit the bar with the ball falling kindly in front of Packer one yard out and he duly headed it over the line. There was even time for Jarvis to have a header ruled out for offside a minute later as the Golds moved up to second in the table.

The scoreline looks a little harsh on EP given their competitive nature throughout the game and they set out to make it hard for the hosts to control the game which for periods certainly worked.

Despite not fielding either Gaskin or Biggs, Town had more than enough to win the game in front of a good sized crowd once again and attention now turns to the FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round on Sunday (ko 3pm) against higher division and fellow Sussex side Whitehawk, another good crowd is expected in excess of the 220 last Wednesday, momentum is building nicely for the Golds.

Rebels brush aside hard working Golds

Two games in two nights for me this week, although this one had to be cut a little short as the eldest daughter required picking up from her final guides meeting of the current year!

Having already seen both Littlehampton Town and Worthing in action this was a further chance to see how much difference a week or two makes in the company of former Rebels chairman Pete Stone for the first half and Simon Hull manager of East Preston for part of the second half.

With players Mitch Hand and George Gaskin jointly managing Town after Mark Bennett’s resignation a week ago, Hand sat out the game to manage from the sideline up against Adam Hinshelwood whose side the night before had beaten Baffins Milton Rovers 3-2 and once again the squad rotation was in full effect.

With so many promising young players coming through the Worthing ranks, pre-season is an ideal time to integrate them into the squad and while most are currently involved in training with the first team nothing compares to game time especially against County League sides where the games are much tougher.

And with Worthing keeping together a majority of their squad from the past two interrupted seasons there aren’t much tougher tests locally. Littlehampton have also kept together most of their squad too and will be hoping to make an impression on their return to the Premier Division of the Southern Combination.

The Rebels were out the blocks quickly with Shaq Gwengwe leading the line, looking sharp and ready to cause problems. The first chance however fell to the hosts inside five minutes, Joe Benn blazing over the bar with Worthing slightly back on their heels.

The visitors then took over the possession stakes although the Golds were very rigid in their two banks of four making it hard for Worthing to get through, patience and movement was the key for the Rebels.

That paid off after 14 minutes when the impressive Kyle O’Brien’s ball into the box wasn’t cleared and fell to Gwengwe who cheekily back-heeled the ball past James Binfield for the opening goal.

The lead however lasted just six minutes, Dion Jarvis’ ball over the top gave Benn the chance to score and slotted the ball past Harrison Male to level the scores.

O’Brien, who was finding acres of space down the left hand side, was at the heart of everything creative for the Rebels causing no end of problems. Again though it was the home side who should have scored just after the half hour mark when Benn was clean through and although his effort beat Male it also beat the far post.

As it was, the Rebels took the lead again through Aarran Racine seven minutes before the break, heading home at the far post from a Darren Budd corner to give the visitors the half time advantage.

That lead was almost increased early in the second half as Ty Mthunzi smacked a header against the bar from another Budd corner. There wasn’t long for Rebels fans to wait as Alfie Hall netted the third after Gwengwe harassed a Golds defender and Hall was left with the easiest tap in.

That was pretty much the end of my watching with said pick up occurring, Worthing added two further goals, both from Hall, to complete a comprehensive 5-1 win for the visitors.

Whilst Worthing are very slick in the way they play, it’s been honed over seasons and the Golds working as they do to protect themselves with the two banks of four defending not many sides should take them apart this season.

Very impressed with O’Brien on the left hand side, considering he looked like playing as the left back in a four, he spent more time providing the crosses as a left winger and with Joel Colbran providing width on the opposite flank Littlehampton had lots to think about for the 90 minutes.

Just over a week of pre-season left before Steps 5 and 6 begin their league campaigns whilst Step 4 have a wait of a little longer but that will arrive in no time and every hope there is no interruption this time around……..