Monday, 14 October 2013

Ovingdean 3 v 8 Langney Wanderers

Saturday 12th October 2013
Sussex Intermediate Cup Round Two
Happy Valley Recreation Ground, Woodingdean
Admission and programme: Nil
Attendance: 32 (head count)
Match Rating: 4

With a long distance groundhopping trip to Belgium to look forward to next Saturday, today I decided to take in some local cup football in the Sussex Intermediate Cup between arguably one of the weaker teams in the competition against one of the strong favourites to win it.

The wonderfully named Happy Valley Recreation Ground is located in the eastern fringes of Brighton, four miles east of the city centre and a couple of miles north of Rottingdean. It is easily accessible by bus or car, but about a three mile hilly walk from the nearest train station at Falmer. After one enters the facility walking through the car park with a children's playground to one side, with three pitches beyond in, as the grounds name suggests, a valley. Today's game was played on the middle pitch of the three. There are no spectator facilities here, and just an unattractive building built primarily to deter vandalism beyond one of the pitches. The ground does boast a very scenic background though, with two steep hills surrounding two sides and a valley stretching into the distance beyond one of the lengths. A row of trees lines the remaining goal.

This game would pitch a team from the Brighton and Hove League - along with the Worthing and District League, generally considered to be the weakest of the five leagues that feed into the Sussex County League - against a team from the Sussex County League Division Three. Ovingdean have only played two league games so far this season, winning one and drawing the other, and in the last round of this competition, they beat Sussex County Division Three outfit Billingshurst 3-2 in their first game of the season. Langney Wanderers have had an excellent start to their season, winning all five of their games played so far and in the last round of this competition, they won 2-5 at Pagham Reserves.

On a mild and occasionally sunny afternoon, this game certainly had an explosive start. Within the first minute, Langney Wanderers should have opened the scoring when their striker had all the time in the world in the six yard box to place his shot, even pausing with the ball to assess his options before eventually firing into the side netting. On four minutes, Ovingdean were awarded a penalty for handball, which was converted down the middle by Chris Macaulay. Their surprising lead didn't last long though - two minutes later a low cross was slotted home inside the near post by Terry Payne. On ten minutes, the visitors took the lead when a defender hooked the ball across his own penalty box from a corner, and Steven Hickman-Smith hooked the ball over his shoulder and into the net. The game then settled into an even passage of play right up to the stroke of half time, when Langney Wanderers scored twice to pretty much win the game. As the game entered first half stoppage time, the ball was played forward and Shane Saunders clipped the ball past the onrushing keeper and into the net. Then, after a couple of shots were blocked in quick succession, Riki Prodger drilled the ball into the net.

If Ovingdean were to get back into the game, they would have needed to have pulled one back quickly, however that never looked likely and on 58 minutes, Langney Wanderers extended their lead further to 1-5 when the ball was powered in from a slight angle by Saunders for his second of the game following a fast break. They scored their sixth on 73 minutes when the ball was driven into the net by Prodger, and two minutes later they saw a deflected shot come back off a post. On 87 minutes, Ovingdean were awarded their second penalty of the game, this time when the keeper brought down the striker after his defender dithered, and the penalty was scored low in the bottom left corner by Macaulay despite the keeper going the right way. They pulled another goal back a minute later when a mishit shot by Macaulay from a corner found its way into the net for his hat-trick to make the score 3-6. On 89 minutes, Langney Wanderers scored their seventh, shortly after having a goal ruled out for offside, when Prodger completed his hat-trick with a powerful first time shot. In added on time, Langney Wanderers made the scoreline 3-8 with a route one goal. Their striker got on the end of a long punt downfield by the keeper and although his shot was saved, Benjamin Saber latched onto the rebound and hit the ball across the keeper and into the net. So as expected Langney Wanderers comfortably progress in to the next round and that is all that matters, although they could and perhaps should have scored a few more, and will probably feel that the three goals they conceded were sloppy and avoidable. Ovingdean battled hard throughout and credit to them for scoring twice after falling 1-6 behind when they could have lost all interest and desire in the game, but they simply were not good enough against a very strong outfit at this level.

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