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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Double hat-trick delight for Town

We might be in the middle of December but there are still some midweek offerings out there to take your fancy as we head towards the festive fixtures in a couple of weeks’ time.

After last week’s trip to Kent to watch Cray Wanderers it was back local to high flying Littlehampton Town and a catch up with one of my mates, Steve Watson at the same time.

Town were fresh from the weekend’s FA Vase win against Sheppey Utd, a side that are unbeaten in the Southern Counties East League Premier Division, Liam Humphreys scoring the only goal of the game to put the West Sussex outfit into the last 32 and an away draw in January at Athletic Newham.

Their opponents in yet another cup competition, the Sussex FA RUR Cup, were AFC Uckfield who sit far enough away from the relegation places and looking more towards mid-table, but up against a free scoring side who have notched 76 goals in 21 league game alone.

On what was a mild night for football, the visitors had a few delays in arriving at the ground all in one go, the joys of the A26 and 27 and not just during rush hour. Sometimes something like this has no effect on a team and other times it can mean everything goes to pot before the game has kicked off.

But against a side like Littlehampton you can’t give them an inch of space at all and with less than ten minutes on the clock the home side were in front through joint-boss George Gaskin after some smart play.

With the first goal on the board so early on thoughts tend to drift to ‘how many’ as it’s pretty rare for a low scoreline when it involves the Golds. The home side were zipping the ball around well on a sticky surface, that super looking playing surface showing the wear and tear of so many teams playing on it, but Town made it look like there wasn’t an issue with it.

Lucas Pattendon, who was giving the left back a torrid time with his direct running, rattled the post on 20 minutes and almost unbelievably Joe Benn struck the opposite post just a minute later, the onslaught appeared to be coming.

There was a short wait for the game’s second goal and it fell to Gaskin again on the half hour mark, a deft touch from Benn into the path of his fellow front man and he made no mistake.

Just as we seemed set for a 2-0 half-time lead, Gaskin wrapped up his hat-trick with a curled shot beyond the reach of visiting keeper Jason Tibble. The half still wasn’t done as Benn added a fourth in stoppage time, slamming the ball home after it fell kindly to him in the box and to leave the visitors shell shocked and effectively out of the game.

Golds started the second half as they finished the first, on the front foot and five minutes into the half Benn had an easy tap in from a left wing Steve Herbert cross for the game’s fifth goal and all for the home side.

With the game completely in their control, Town sprayed the ball around trying for more openings, but Uckfield keeping them at bay despite finding it hard to get out of their own half.

Tom Biggs after one of the most mazy runs I’ve ever seen dinked the ball onto the post with 18 minutes to play, the third striking of the woodwork during the evening, the same player soon after tried to chip a shot beyond Tibble into the top right hand corner but the ball narrowly went over the bar.

It was down to Benn to match Gaskin and notch a treble of his own with five minutes left to complete a comprehensive win for the Golds and yet more cup progress in a season which is unfolding quite nicely at the moment.

An estimate from me of around 150 watching this one as Town were quite honestly ruthless in front of goal. The visitors did fashion a couple of half chances in the second half and had a penalty appeal waved away as well, James Binfield I don’t think had a save to make.

Benn now sits on 48 goals for the season, a phenomenal effort so far and of course has been attracting attention at higher levels. Nothing should be taken away from the efforts of Gaskin too, he has chipped in with a very decent amount this season but overshadowed by Benn’s exploits at times.

What was also noticeable last night was how comfortable each player was on the ball and all of them always wanting it despite the threadbare playing surface, but also the fact Humphreys and Dave Herbert dropped to the bench, Dion Jarvis was missing completely but it made no difference and that’s the sign of a good squad at the disposal of Gaskin and Mitch Hand.

Credit must go to Uckfield who didn’t shy away, the two goals right at the end of the first half was easily a body blow and the ones that changed the complexion of the second half, but when you come up against a side that can just score and create chances for fun, sometimes you just have to tip your hat.

Five on the spin for impressive Horsham

Heading towards the winter and colder months means less midweek football to choose from and pretty much only cup competitions being the way forward. Of course those who’ve enjoyed good cup runs so far are the one’s still able to hand out a Tuesday or Wednesday night fix for those of us who need it!

Horsham are one such team who’ve enjoyed a decent FA Cup run this season, all the way to the First Round Proper where a long trip north sent them to League Two strugglers Carlisle Utd but the dream ended there at Brunton Park with a 2-0 defeat.

At the same time that Saturday afternoon results in the Pitching In Isthmian League Premier Division dropped the Hornets to the bottom of the table with only one win to their name. Since that defeat, Horsham have won four on the bounce to move away from the lower reaches and now looking upwards.

Entertaining a Wingate & Finchley side who were only a couple of places difference in the table at the start of play gave the Hornets a good chance to add to their unbeaten run while the visitors arrived at the Camping World Stadium without a win in their last six games.

On a mild night compared with the cold, wind and rain over previous days and given the contrasting form of the two sides it was no surprise to see the home side take the early initiative.

The Hornets had the best of the early chances, Lucas Rodrigues had the best of them in the opening 15 minutes. Firstly, a long kick from keeper Sam Howes put the striker in on goal but saw his effort saved by Ben Goode. Moments later the same player was clean through again but dragged his effort wide of the far post.

Chances continued to come the home side’s way throughout the half but the deadlock was still to be broken and you wondered if it was going to be one of those nights where all the play goes one way and the other side nick a goal or two against the run of play.

But those fears were allayed eight minutes before half time, Rob O’Toole played in Rodrigues whose shot was saved, O’Toole making no mistake when the ball landed at his feet and the home side were finally in front.

Two minutes later, the Hornets had the chance to extend the lead when they were awarded a penalty, but Tom Kavanagh’s spot kick was easily saved by Goode. Rodrigues then hit the post soon after as the Hornets pressed again but had to settle for a single goal lead when on chances created they could have been four or five in front by the interval.

The half time team talk for Horsham must have been something along the lines of ‘keep creating chances and goals will come,’ but despite most of the attacking play coming from the home side, there was a lack of end product and as we all know too well, a one goal lead isn’t always enough.

The second goal did eventually come with twenty minutes to play, Lee Harding deftly lifting the ball over Goode when it looked as if the ball had run away from him and put the home side in sight of another three points.

It could and should have been more as substitute Charlie Hester-Cook smashed an effort against the bar and the post was also hit once again but the home side were unable to add to the two goals they had already scored.

The visitors finished the game with ten men after Dexter Peter picked up a second yellow card three minutes from time to cap a miserable night for Wingate and a long journey back to North London without anything to show for the night’s work.

Horsham march on with a fifth consecutive win on the bounce and are now nine points off the play-offs which is a far cry from a few week’s previous, credit to both the management team and the players for turning the season around after a wretched start.

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.

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 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.