Bridges claim cup win

It was a Tuesday night before lockdown and a mad rush to get in as many football matches as possible before battening down the hatches for the second time this year.

Although to be fair, Three Bridges vs Worthing in the Sussex Senior Cup was always going to be my destination far before the realms of unpredictability rolled the dice once again, a second viewing of Bridges and a third of the Mackerel Men.

Having caught my first 0-0 of the season the previous evening in the same competition I was hopeful that was just a blip and more goals would be on offer, well that 0-0 had to have a penalty shoot-out, so not counted really is it!

One huge bonus for the visitors was the return of Alfie Young to the heart of the defence, a big player for Worthing and one needed since Aarran Racine decided to step away to concentrate on his business.

Having seen both sides in action at least once already this season, there was less of an unknown quantity about either side. As you would expect the Mackerel Men had most of the possession but Bridges were content to make the most of the play when they had the ball.

The first real chance of the game came on 16 minutes, Worthing Mo Diallo was denied by Bridges stopper Kieron Thorp after fashioning a chance himself. Bridges though came back and ex-Mackerel man Brannon O’Neil brought a fine save out of Roco Rees in the Worthing goal.

With Worthing enjoying their better spells down the flanks, the next good chance came from Dajon Golding cutting in from the right wing but blazing wildly over when looking set to open the scoring.

The game should have turned on its head in the 42nd minute, a lunging challenge from Bridges centre half Dean Lovegrove on Jasper Pattenden saw the defender receive his second red card in as many matches and leave his side with just over half a game to complete with ten men.

Worthing certainly had a little more intensity in the second half, trying to pull Bridges across the pitch and make the most of the extra man advantage but the hosts made the visitors work hard defending well against Diallo and Omar Koroma, not allowing either striker much sight of Thorp’s goal.

Koroma did get a sight of goal just before the hour mark, bursting through the Bridges defence beating Thorp but hitting the defender on the line which kept the scores level.

The hosts were increasingly creating chances on the counter-attack as Worthing pushed forward trying to break the deadlock and indeed were nearly caught out as Gayler sent the ball over Rees goal when well positioned.

The Mackerel Men made them pay for that miss as substitute Ollie Pearce was slipped in and fired emphatically past Thorp to give Worthing the lead on 82 minutes.

The lead was to last no more than a minute as Bridges replied immediately through John Lansdale. Skipping through the Worthing defence, the ball found it’s way through to Lansdale hammered the ball past Rees to give Bridges renewed hope and a way back into the tie.

Worse was to come for Worthing as minutes later Curtis Gayler finished off a fine counter-attack with a measured finish past Rees to give the home side the lead and under three minutes left to play.

Koroma thought he had levelled the scores in the last minute, a Golding cross picking him out in the six yard box but the tall striker’s header hit the bar and the loose ball cleared away to safety.

Bridges held firm in stoppage time despite a barrage of balls into the box and secured their place in the last sixteen of the cup at the expense of their higher league placed opponents.

After the game I caught up with Worthing boss Adam Hinshelwood to get his views on the game:

‘Bit frustrated we didn’t take our chances, but we should have had a penalty in the first ten minutes instead of an offside decision going against us which changes the game in my opinion, but on the night we didn’t show enough quality in the final third and they fully deserved to win.’

‘We made a lot of poor choices on the ball and clinical ruthless finishing was lacking for me, we would turn down a simple pass for a more difficult one. It’s football though, it happens and we’ve already identified improvements to be made and the players like myself will be working hard to improve.’

‘Great to have Alfie (Young) back, a real big player for us and the way we want to play, but for the two goals last night I have already had a conversation with him on how he could’ve done better in both situations and potentially prevented them which he agreed with, so he will learn from it and that’s what this group of players do, they are honest, hard working and Alfie epitomises that, he is very brave to get on the ball and play it out from the back.’

‘With the lockdown coming in, its very frustrating but it is what it is we have to deal with it and then try and find the momentum we were building in the league on the return. Hopefully, a shining light will be that the pitch can be done in this time.’

‘We’ll try and do some Zoom sessions with the boys over the next four weeks and keep in touch with them as much as we are allowed to do, obviously no training for the same period of time I hope has no or little effect when we do re-start.’

Spot kick success give Wanderers the win

Monday night football at the Withdean Stadium, current home of AFC Varndeanians and Brighton Electricity, was drawn to me given the fact by Thursday non-league football is once again on the back burner.

Not often you get games thrown at you so early in the week but those restrictions coming in have certainly made me look at getting a few extra in the bank as much as I can.

As it was, Varndeanians were hosting Langney Wanderers, the Eastbourne based club one of three I write for, more work being put on hold for the sabbatical, and with Simon Colbran returning to manage the club after departing shortly before the season started a chance for a look at what he was aiming to build once again.

The V’s came into the game off the back of a weekend 2-2 draw at Wick, whilst Wanderers suffered a 2-0 reverse at Broadbridge Heath, attentions now turned to the Sussex Senior Cup.

When Brighton & Hove Albion frequented the Withdean I never saw my team Barnet win there, got soaked a few times, generally quite miserable. This was my first return to the ground in some ten years or so, derived of temporary seating now but of course the running track remains.

A reasonable sized crowd was in for this one, no doubt a last football fix for some keen to take in the fresh air and the play on offer. There was certainly no tentative start from either side, lots of endeavour and a keenness to get the football on the grass and pass it forward.

Varndeanians were the first to strike hitting the post just four minutes into the game, Ben Whiting beaten and relieved to see the ball bounce back out to his defenders and cleared to safety.

Wanderers though made sure the V’s didn’t have everything their own way, Pete Cooper and Tim Bennett making sure the hosts experienced back four were being tested across the park.

The first half was short on clear cut goalscoring opportunities for both sides, but not devoid of attacking intent and with some more guile and composure in front of goal either side could have gone in at the break in front but goalless was the scoreline.

Wanderers were the brighter of the two as the second half began, although Varndeanians made sure their opponents had to work hard either side of the ball. The home side came close to breaking the deadlock mid-way through the half but failed to test Whiting in the Wanderers goal whilst at the other end much probing resulted in a similar vain for the visitors.

Wanderers skipper Pete Featherstone thought he finally had the ball in the net only to see his shot hit the post on 78 minutes, the follow up shot blocked and Varndeanians scrambling the ball away.

There was one final chance for the visitors to win it, a mazy run in the closing stages from substitute Delight Akerjola ended with a fierce shot fizzing over the bar sending the game to penalties.

Spot kicks didn’t begin well for Langney with the first penalty saved, but Wanderers went on to win the shoot out after Varndeanians hit the post and then sent their final penalty high over the bar giving the visitors a place in the last 16 to be played whenever we resume once again.

On Tuesday morning, I caught up with returning Wanderers boss Simon Colbran to get his views on the game:

‘I thought the first half was pretty even, but we looked the better side in the second half and deserved the win. We worked very hard all game but just missed that clinical edge in front of goal, but overall a great performance against a good, experienced side.’

 ‘I was confident we wouldn’t concede so it was either getting that winning goal or having to do it on penalties.’

‘Despite the fact we now have to stop for a month it might work in our favour so I can assemble the squad I want ready to go again in four weeks’ time.’

‘I’m pleased to be back involved again, at the time I left family had to come first but football is so much in my blood, it’s great to have that feeling once again.’

Mullets suffer Senior Cup exit

Tuesday evening this week took me to Arundel as they took on Oakwood in the Sussex Senior Cup 1st round. There was much debate up and down the country as to whether County FA’s would run their own senior competitions this season and it’s been pretty mixed, some are and some have postponed them until next season.

Sussex recently went for it and drew their competition a few weeks ago, only county league sides involved in this round but with the incentive of drawing the likes of Brighton & Hove Albion Under 23’s, Crawley Town, Eastbourne Borough or one of the Pitching In Isthmian League sides in the next round, money spinners for some even if big crowds are not allowed to attend.

On a crisp, but damp evening after early afternoon rain the Mill Road looked in good shape. It looked on arrival that the visitors might have had a delayed journey heading to West Sussex as they seemed to be kit changing at the far end of the pitch although these days with grounds being configured differently due to the covid restrictions that might well have been their changing area for the evening.

Both sides have made poor starts to their campaigns with neither side having registered a league win so far, not surprisingly the opening exchanges were tentative as both sides struggled to find a rhythm on a quick pitch.

It took 26 minutes for the deadlock to be broken, and with Oakwood making most of the early chances it was the visitors who went in front, Aaron Ryder scoring from a corner.

The lead only lasted four minutes, the Mullets Ben Grey equalising with a well taken penalty after that notorious handball law made the call. From that point I was expecting it to give Arundel the confidence to take hold of the game and make Oakwood work to win the game.

But it was the visitors who took the lead again on 36 minutes, a deft finish from Sam Cane past the hosts keeper Lewis Broughton was no more than they deserved and were well in control of the game at the half time interval.

The second half took a little while to come to life, neither really finding enough to test the goalkeepers and the midfield battle looking very even on the whole. The Mullets pulled themselves back into the tie as Grey with a small suspicion of offside got clear to lob the onrushing Greaves for the ball to land perfectly under the bar and level the scores once more.

Mullets had the chance five minutes later when from a corner defender Rob Madden met the ball perfectly but his header hit the outside of the post. It was left to the visitors substitute Oluwaseun Olabiyi to notch the winner ten minutes from time although Madden had a late chance to take the tie to penalties but scouped the ball over from three yards.

Impressive performance from Oakwood’s Arnold Saurombe who gave the Arundel defence problems throughout the game with his direct running and coming in off the left flank with no one sure who was tracking him. The Mullets desperately need an injection of confidence before they find themselves too far behind the top teams in the league, they do have a couple of games in hand but they need to won or mid-table might beckon this season…………