Thursday, 18 April 2013

Buxted 1 v 1 Ifield

Wednesday 17th April 2013
Mid Sussex Senior Charity Cup Quarter-Final
Ifield won 7-6 on penalties
Recreation Ground, Buxted
Admission and Programme: None
Attendance: 32 (head count)
Match Rating: 3

My latest silly season groundhopping adventure took me to yet another Mid Sussex Football League ground, although this time in a cup competition, with the possibility of a giantkilling. It would also be a visit to a former Sussex County League venue, Buxted having played in Division Three for ten seasons here.

The Buxted Recreation Ground is just a five minute walk from Buxted rail station, and was a pleasant surprise given the club's lowly status in the second tier of the Mid Sussex League. The ground has a pleasant rural and peaceful feel to it, surrounded by trees, housing barely visible, and with long distance countryside views above the trees. A clubhouse is also present, which isn't particularly easy on the eye from the outside but being able to have a pint and hot food is welcome at this level.

This game would surely be a tough challenge for Buxted, playing against established Sussex County League Division Three side Ifield, who play two tiers above Buxted. Both teams are in the lower reaches of their respective divisions, with Buxted in eighth place in the 11 team Mid Sussex League Championship, and Ifield in tenth place in the 12 team Sussex County League Division Three. Ifield’s poor recent form would certainly give Buxted room for hope that they could bridge the two division gap between the two teams, having drawn one and lost the other four of their last five games. To set up this tie, both clubs last played in this competition last autumn, beating teams in their respective divisions, Buxted winning 2-4 at AFC Ringmer in October, whilst Ifield won 3-2 at home to Roffey in September.

On a dry and occasionally sunny evening, the first half was competitive without being particularly entertaining. Ifield, unsurprisingly, looked the stronger team and had the better chances, although Buxted were giving a good account of themselves, with the two division gap between the two teams not really evident , and indeed Buxted did have the odd chance to take the lead. A goalless scoreline at half time was a fair reflection of the first half though.

Buxted seemed to have grown in confidence by the second half, and by now it was they who shaded possession and the better chances. On 63 minutes, they took the lead. There was a hint of offside when a player ran down the line – although the general consensus was that he had timed his run to perfection – and crossed the ball low into the box. An Ifield defender really should have cut the cross out, but missed the ball, leaving an easy tap in from a few yards out at the far post by Grant Reynolds. For the rest of the game, Buxted looked comfortable with their lead, as they dominated the game and Ifield surprisingly seemed to lack confidence and allow the game to drift towards an inevitable defeat. Amongst other chances, Buxted really should have put the game to bed around five minutes from time when two attackers bore down on goal, but the ball was blazed over the bar instead of being squared to his fellow attacker in front of the goal with the keeper committed. This was to prove extremely costly, as out of nothing, Ifield scored an equaliser on 90 minutes. The ball was crossed high into the box from the byline, and was headed in from close range by Chris Hughes. 

With the fading light, extra time was not possible and so the match went straight to penalties. Ifield took the first penalty, but both teams missed their first penalty. They then both scored their next three. Buxted had the chance to win the tie when Ifield missed their fifth penalty, but unfortunately the Buxted player then slipped as he struck the ball, which looped gently into the keeper’s hands. Both teams’ next three penalties were they converted, but after Ifield scored their seventh, the Buxted player struck his penalty just over the bar to give Ifield the win. So an expected result beforehand, but Buxted will be kicking themselves after more than matching their higher level opponents and wasting several golden chances to progress. Ifield will now meet another team from the Mid Sussex League Championship, Burgess Hill Albion, in the semi-final.

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