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.

Goal fest as football returns again

Football! It’s back, how long for we don’t know with decisions made by those not understanding the non-league game at all but here we are ready to go again and of course you’ve got to make the most of every opportunity.

With the go ahead given last week but not a re-start for everyone, local games to go to where I hadn’t been so far were a little bit in short supply with no Step 3 or 4 action for around at least two weeks more so I settled on Wick vs Arundel despite having seen both in action in the first two months of the season.

I had been hopeful of heading to The Hive to finally get to see Barnet in action and not on a stream, they put paid to that before the weekend with season ticket holders only being admitted. Then they threw a spanner in the works announcing on Monday individual tickets were on sale for Tuesday night’s game.

Can’t say I wasn’t tempted, but with friends not able to make that game I stayed with my local choice and headed to Crabtree Park for the second time this season. The first was the opening Saturday of the season for the Southern Combination when Bexhill Utd recorded what was a comfortable 3-0 win, Arundel I saw go down 3-2 to Oakwood in the Sussex Senior Cup in October at Mill Road.

Both sides sat middle to lower half going into the game and this being the first action for four weeks and being a local derby too, an added couple of extras going into the game and by the time the final whistle went this one certainly didn’t disappoint.

On a fresh, cold December night, both sides were intent on playing football rather than reverting to banging the ball long to skip across the crisp surface, Wick had the better of the opening exchanges and were in front on 14 minutes, Jake Hawker heading home unmarked at the edge of the six yard box to give the home side the lead.

It wasn’t all one way traffic although the home side just had the edge and were awarded a penalty on 36 minutes, striker Dan Simmonds’ effort well saved by Mullets keeper Lewis Broughton, but he couldn’t prevent Connor Bull from firing home the rebound to put Wick 2-0 up.

Arundel brought themselves back into the game superbly just two minutes later, striker Ben Gray operating as a left back curled a free kick into the far top corner giving Wickers keeper Jordan Matthews no chance, a worldie if you like and a way back into the game for the visitors.

The game however turned on the next decision just a few moments later, Mullets John Phillips given a straight red card by referee Mark Spence reducing the visitors to ten men although no change in the scoreline as the game moved into half time, Simmonds hitting the post just before the interval.

Wick certainly made use of the extra man in the second half, Arundel a bit more tentative to push forward given the closeness of the scoreline and it was no surprise the next goal went to the home side.

A ball played in by left back Jack Bingham found Rob Hutchings, dual signed from Pitching In South Eastern side Chichester City, who controlled with one touch and unleashed a fierce shot giving Broughton no chance five minutes into the second half.

Three minutes later and Simmonds added his name to the scoresheet to put Wickers 4-1 up and in complete control with a clinical finish. Gray gave Mullets a glimmer of hope ten minutes later with another sweet strike that flew past Matthews only for Simmonds to pounce for his second just two minutes later after a defensive mix-up allowed him to score, 5-2 to the home side.

The striker then completed his hat-trick in the final 15 minutes, a miscued defensive clearance fell to Simmonds in the penalty area and he made no mistake firing past Broughton and a sixth goal for Wick.

There was time for Shane Brazil to time his run and lob the ball over the on-rushing Matthews into the net for a third consolation goal from 25 yards out, Wickers running out 6-3 winners.

Credit to both sides in what was a very entertaining affair and neither side seemed affected by tiredness or fatigue after four weeks of no games, the scoreline I felt was reflected in the decision of the red card I don’t think we would have had such a goal fest otherwise.

Attention is turned to the weekend now and the decision is between a local game or branching out into the National League, it’s great to be back once again……….

Wickers woe on opening day

Saturday football for the first time since I can’t remember when! I’m not just talking lockdown procedures but beyond that, but with personal life changes I’ve now got the opportunity to go whenever and wherever I please.

The beginning of a league season, nine months or so of arduous hard work with promotion the end goal. For most and myself much included, this season takes on a different role. It reminds us of what we couldn’t have for months since March this year, a re-evaluation if you like and a determination to not take for granted a lot a things close to us that we love and enjoy.

Needing to stay local with work beckoning in the evening, I chose to visit Wick FC in the Southern Combination League Division One, a club I spent time at until December last year. A mix of roles as Social Media Manager, Treasurer and Secretary took up a lot of time and now these days I wonder how I fitted it all in.

It’s been a summer of change at Crabtree Park, new managers in Tom Simmonds and the returning Lee Baldwin, new badge, new players, returning players and a brand new metal fencing around the pitch perimeter but the same objective as last season’s null and void effort, promotion.

With four spots up for grabs once again Wickers are keen to progress and return to Premier Division football but face stiff competition to get there. Littlehampton, Mile Oak, AFC Varndeanians, Seaford, and Arundel amongst a few could stand in their way along with Saturday’s visitors Bexhill Utd. The two clubs were siting 4th and 5th before the season came to an end with Wick seven points in front having played the same amount of games.

Both sides were looking to get their season off to a winning start having not been in FA Cup action midweek. Wickers certainly started the stronger of the two sides, wingers George Cody and Alex Kew both finding lots of space to whip balls into the front two of Scott Murfin and Dan Simmonds although neither striker could find the target.

With Wick unable to take advantage the visitors got more of a foothold in the game and took the lead on 32 mins when Evan Archibald capitalised on some hesitant defending to fire past Wickers keeper Jordan Matthews. From that point on Bexhill controlled the game and Archibald notched his and Bexhill’s second just before half time.

Despite holding a 2-0 lead, the visitors continued to press throughout the second half, and it was no surprise when the impressive Jack Mclean rounded Matthews just after the hour mark to seal the points for the visitors. Wickers did have a goal disallowed minutes before Mclean’s strike, but the Pirates took full advantage to take the win back to East Sussex.

Impressive performance from Bexhill who harried and pressed more once they were a goal in front, Mclean and Curran on the opposite wing gave the full backs no peace all afternoon and the busy Archibald made sure the centre halves had no easy rides for 90 minutes.

For Wick a disappointing afternoon, but the memory goes back to the beginning of last season when Mile Oak came away from Crabtree Park with all three points, but things then went right for Terry Dodd, will the same apply for Simmonds and Baldwin? An early chance for redemption comes on Tuesday when they head to Billingshurst whilst Bexhill are without a midweek game, watching football in the sun is a great reminder of what we have missed in months gone by, floodlit football is even better………..