This Bank Holiday Monday's venue for me was decided by the warm sunny weather that has descended on South-east England. Although today would be a revisit for me, I recalled what a scenic setting Rottingdean's ground has, which would be further enhanced when visiting on a sunny day. An 11 o'clock kick off here also opened up the opportunity of doubling up with another local game with a 3pm kick off.
Situated about a mile uphill from the centre of Rottingdean, itself about a five mile bus ride along the coast eastwards from Brighton, the football club is located adjacent to but perched above the cricket field - which is signposted from the main road unlike the football club - with both clubs sharing the clubhouse. One length of the pitch has rolling fields very close behind it, whilst behind the other length is the cricket field, clubhouse and a more distant brow of a hill, with a windmill also visible. Behind one goal is a steep grass bank which offers an excellent view of the action as well as the surrounding rolling countryside, whilst behind the remaining goal is a hedge, with horses on the grass hill behind. Behind this goal and the area leading up to the dugouts is inaccessible to spectators. Railing is present all around the pitch although there is no hard standing and no floodlights. Programmes were available to purchase in the clubhouse. It was fairly standard fare for this level but contained all the essentials and have seen far, far worse at this level.
Today was the last day of the season in this division, and Rottingdean Village have had a season to forget. They went into this game second bottom, level on points with bottom placed TD Shipley, who had already completed their fixtures. With a goal difference one better than TD Shipley but having scored more goals, Rottingdean just needed to avoid losing by two or more goals to avoid the wooden spoon. They hadn't won in the league since mid November, since when they have picked up just two points from their last ten games. Billingshurst were assured of a fourth place finish in their first season since promotion to the Sussex County League, but have finished the season poorly, picking up just a point from their last four games. When the two teams met in the league back in September, Billingshurst won 3-1, and they also triumphed 2-1 when the teams met in the Vernon Wentworth cup.
Although fog did threaten to linger around the ground ahead of kick off, it soon cleared to leave a fine morning. Ahead of the game I imagined a tough game for the home side, however it soon became evident that the opposite would be true. After a scrappy start to the game, Rottingdean appeared to have the more attacking intent and deservedly took the lead on 20 minutes when a free kick was floated deep into the box, the keeper couldn't make a decisive punch on the ball and Jamie Evans headed the ball in off the post. Billingshurst hit the post three minutes later, but on the half hour, Giles Shepherd made it two when he hooked the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper and into the net after breaking clear of the defence.
So a surprising but fully deserved half time score line, and the Billingshurst manager read the riot act to his players on the pitch during the interval. It didn't seem to inspire his lethargic and seemingly disinterested players though, as they only started to come more into the game once they had conceded a further two goals. A minute into the second half, Kris Power scored Rottingdean's third when he broke clear of the defence before slotting low past the keeper. He scored almost a replica goal on 51 minutes to make it 4-0. Finally Billingshurst stopped the rot after this though, forcing a fantastic save of a shot that looked destined for the top right corner on 66 minutes, and on 71 minutes they appealed for a goal when the ball hit the post and rolled towards the keeper on the line, but no goal was given. Rottingdean still looked capable of scoring again though, which they did four minutes from time when Power completed his hat trick, when he ran from his own half, outpaced the retreating defenders before slotting the ball low past the keeper. So Rottingdean ended a miserable season on a very high note, whilst Billingshurst got exactly what they deserved for clearly wishing their season had already finished before today.