Goal fest at The Lashmar

It certainly feels like at the moment that when it comes to games to attend you need a back up on artificial surfaces in case the grass efforts are washed out by the increasingly poor weather we’re suffering at the moment.

There were around six or so games I could have taken in on Tuesday evening, but in the end decided the ten minute journey there and back was the winner, East Preston and Littlehampton Town in a Southern Combination Premier Division local derby.

Both sides certainly have contrasting fortunes this season, EP struggling once again at the bottom end of the table but still just about in touch with the sides above them whilst Town are in the thick of a title race and the 4th round of the FA Vase.

With the previous scheduled encounter postponed just after New Year due to the weather there was a little doubt this one might go the same way but on a very sticky and wet pitch the game went ahead.

Town were on the attack right from the off, still attempting their slick passing game despite the conditions and they took the lead within a minute of the game starting, Lucas Pattenden who was a constant thorn in the side of EP tore down the right hand side and crossed for George Gaskin to slot home the opening goal.

Not quite the start the home side wanted and just ten minutes later Town added a second, Joe Benn having made a good run past the EP defence but forced a little wide and with no incoming support the Golds top scorer shot from an acute angle and made it 2-0 to the visitors.

At that point, the thought crossed the mind of how many Littlehampton were going to rattle in but fair play to EP who went straight up the other end and Charlie Robinson reduced the deficit with a firm header from a corner past James Binfield.

Despite leading the goal seemed to make Littlehampton a little more cautious but EP struggled to maintain possession and Shane Brazil cut a lonely furrow up front against the Town back three.

The visitors should have added to their scoreline two or three times, Dion Jarvis hitting the post and Kurt Jenna-Swain called into action to save from Gaskin and Benn, Town at times trying to too hard to break through the middle of the defence when their best efforts were coming from Pattenden and Jarvis down the flanks.

Town did score again just after the half hour mark; Tom Biggs’ lovely drop of the shoulder took him past three EP defenders and slotted past Jenna-Swain for the visitors third of the evening and with it a commanding half time lead.

What transpired in the second half wasn’t quite what I was expecting! Only six minutes into the half and any hope of an EP fightback was put to bed very quickly. Benn notched his second and Town’s fourth six minutes into the second half from a Jarvis run and cross, the goal giving the striker 50 for the season so far.

Just a minute later Benn completed yet another hat-trick having dug the ball out from under his feet and firing past Jenna-Swain for 5-1. You might think that with the game won Town would have taken their foot off the gas and just almost toyed with their opponents, but no none of that!

Less than ten minutes into the half and Benn scored again, this time an overhead kick from six yards out from a Pattenden cross gave Jenna-Swain no chance, a fourth goal for the striker and six for the visitors.

Gaskin made it seven as the hour mark ticked by from a Biggs pull back, three minutes following that goal the eighth arrived again from Benn, no let up from the constant peppering of the EP defence despite the points being very much in the bag.

Substitute Steve Herbert then got in on the act on 74 minutes, flicking home a Dave Herbert corner with his first touch six yards out. Once again the visitors had scored twice in two minutes, Benn completing a remarkable double hat-trick and double figures for Littlehampton with still 15 minutes left to play.

Unbelievably Benn scored again with seven minutes to play, this one a flicked header from a corner for his seventh of the game, which I believe is a record for him personally and Herbert wrapped it up just before the final whistle blew with his second of the game and a mad twelfth goal for the visitors.

I have to say I was expecting Littlehampton to score a few given the way they have blown sides away this season so far, but to get 12 and for Benn to notch seven of those is pretty remarkable.

Credit to EP who didn’t turn the game into one where they could have resorted to kicking their visitors up in the air given the frustrating scoreline, but that’s not in their nature at all.

The win takes Littlehampton back to the top of the table on goal difference and with three games in hand over their nearest rivals Saltdean Utd. Mitch Hand and Gaskin are using the squad rotation well and it doesn’t matter what eleven start the game you always feel there are goals in there from somewhere.

55 goals in total this season for Benn now and we’re still not quite in the middle of January the question now is what will be the final figure for the talented frontman?

Attention for Town now turns to the FA Vase 4th round and a trip to Athletic Newham on Saturday whilst EP must pick themselves up as they head to Broadbridge Heath in the league.

Honours even at The Shooting Field

Tuesday night was festive football at last! After a couple of days of family commitments and passing up on Worthing’s delicious win at Bognor during the afternoon Steyning Town was the destination in the evening as they hosted East Preston.

I had my eye on this one just before the home side announced entry would be free, a very generous gesture which I hope added a few more onto the usual crowd figure. It had gained the attention of a few mates, Gareth Spinks and Pete Clarke on their second game of the day after the Rebels win, AFC Uckfield coach Craig Scott and the groundhopping chap that is Justin Holmes.

Having previously watched Steyning earlier in the season against the outstanding Littlehampton who were ruthless in a 6-0 win, they were up against an EP side who are struggling once again this season to get some momentum in results.

With it being the holiday period and expected player availability issues neither side were able to field a full complement of substitutes, but the starting eleven’s began at a frantic pace.

The opening goal arrived on 15 minutes and one worth waiting for, the home side won a free kick around two or three yards outside the penalty area which Scott Murphy curled superbly around the wall and past Dan Stevens to give Steyning the lead.

EP were relying on the pace of Shane Brazil to harass and hurry the Steyning backline, but the front man and his striking partner Harry Russell were marshalled pretty well throughout the first half.

The visitors levelled up the game just before the half hour mark when Brazil netted from the penalty spot, a clear foul on an East Preston man and no complaints from the home side.

Steyning looked the more likely to take the lead once again but a combination of not quite creating clear cut chances nor able to fully test Stevens saw the sides level at the half time interval.

The second half for the home side was a case of almost but not quite, with EP playing a high defensive line for most of the time Steyning were probing for balls just over the top while the visitors were aiming to get the ball out wide for the pushed on full backs and while there was a great battle throughout the half between Mayckol Sabino and Joel Parsons the latter couldn’t get any real quality into the Steyning box to trouble JJ Banasco-Zaragoza.

Both sides struggled to keep possession and use it to fashion some chances, the game turning a little scrappy on two or three occasions in the second half, with attacks breaking down on a constant basis.

No doubt the home side created the better opportunities as the half wore on and should indeed have won it in the final ten minutes but with shots blazing over the bar Stevens wasn’t tested enough in the EP goal for either side to deserve any less than a point.

The result moves the visitors off the bottom of the table having played a game more than AFC Varndeanians who replace them whilst Steyning are now three games unbeaten but remain in 15th spot having played more games than most around them.

Both sides are next in action on Bank Holiday Monday as Steyning travel to Pagham for an 11am kick off whilst East Preston host title chasing local rivals Littlehampton Town at 3pm.

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Golds march on at the top of the league

As the autumn and winter months start to draw in along comes the slowdown in midweek matches. Granted it is the time of the year cup competitions in the lower reaches of the pyramid start to begin but slim pickings it becomes between now and Christmas.

Tuesday night didn’t throw up too many possibilities without dropping work in the afternoon so the choices were head to Horsham, fresh from their weekend FA Cup win, or stay very local and walk through town to see Littlehampton take on Broadbridge Heath.

The latter won as my football buddy for the evening in Steve Watson had a late finish at work, off to the Sportsfield where I’d been so many times already this season.

The Golds have had an impressive start to life back in the Premier Division of the Southern Combination with just one defeat in their opening fourteen league games and also putting in some impressive performances in the FA Cup against higher league opposition whilst the Bears have been on a very decent run themselves and having already seen them in action at Pagham earlier in the season I was expecting a fast flowing game complete with goals.

And there was no disappointment! The visitors were quick out of the blocks and with the hosts struggling to settle they took the lead through Charlie Parmiter after 12 minutes, no more than their early attacking play deserved.

However, with Joe Benn leading the line for Littlehampton and with over twenty goals already this season there are always going to be opportunities for efforts on target. Less than five minutes after the opening goal Town were level through Benn, finishing off a George Gaskin cross and a goal that seemed to settle down the home side.

As per the game I saw for the Bears at Pagham, playing three at the back allowed the full backs to push on, especially down the left hand side through Charlie Gibson. Town’s defence were just about doing enough to repel the ball coming into the box, both Parmiter and Jamie Taylor unable to fashion chances to restore the visitor’s lead.

Just as we seemed set for a level scoreline at half time, the home side went in front. A Gaskin free kick bobbled a bit in the box, but eventually fell to Benn who composed himself, sidestepped and calmly slotted the ball past Dan Law.

Heath started the second half the stronger as per the first, but Town settled more quickly this time trying hard to get the ball out wide on both flanks as often as they could and with the Bears trying to play a high line opportunities were starting to open up.

The flow of the game was only interrupted by the referee who was quick to whistle throughout rather than wait a second or two for an advantage to be played and this led to a niggly period mid-way through the second half trading fouls and yellow cards.

The Bears however came up with an equaliser 20 minutes from time, substitute Tyler Simonds hadn’t been on the pitch long but took advantage of a defensive mistake and ran through unchallenged to slot past Genty Poda.

The lead however lasted only three minutes as Town came back down the flanks, Dion Jarvis fed in down the left, crossing for Mo Jammeh to slide the ball home past Law.

The Gold should have made sure of the points twice within the final five minutes, Benn beat the offside trap racing through one on one with Law only to put the ball the wrong side of the near post while both Gaskin and Jammeh had chances themselves to put a more comfortable slant on the scoreline.

Town’s defence held firm through stoppage time as the crosses rained into the box from the flanks and numerous corner kicks but Heath were unable to muster another goal and Littlehampton hung on to move five points clear at the top having played a game more than most, but more importantly back to winning ways after consecutive 3-3 draw’s.

A very entertaining game which the visitors will feel they should have gotten something out of it, they certainly made Littlehampton work hard for the three points and the hosts will be pleased to get back on the winning trail once again.

Another impressive performance from Benn which should have resulted in a hat-trick, still scratching my head to work out how he didn’t hit the target! With over twenty goals already this season as mentioned he’s going to keep attracting more attention than he’s getting now so remains to be seen if the Golds can keep him at the Sportsfield.

Jammeh’s direct running and quick feet certainly caused a few problems in the second half and Jarvis became more influential as the game went on whether it was through the middle or on the left wing.

 It was probably the most nervy I’ve seen the home defence and from rough calculations it’s the sixth or seventh time I’ve seen them since mid-July, but at the same time there does always appear to be goals in the team to win games.

A break from league action for Littlehampton at the weekend as they face Moneyfields in the FA Vase, a trip to Lingfield awaits the Bears as they aim to get back to winning ways and push higher in the table.

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.

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.

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.

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.