Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Bexhill United 1 v 4 Loxwood

Monday 5th May 2014
Sussex League Division Two Cup Final
Hanbury Park, Haywards Heath
Admission and programme: £5.00
Attendance: 201
Match Rating: 4

At the conclusion of my earlier game at Shoreham watching the Sussex League Cup Final, I headed north to catch the Division Two cup final at Haywards Heath.

Hanbury Park is a delightful old stadium, that has seen some additions and general sprucing up since my last visit just over a year ago, following the club's promotion to senior football from the Sussex League Division Three at the start of this season. A wooden roof has been added to a small standing area towards the corner flag behind one of the goals, and the main stand, surely the grandest and most imposing in the Sussex League, has had its capacity halved, with the rear half of the stand now fenced off. Wooden gates are now in place to guide players from the changing rooms to the pitch, and although the length opposite the main stand was marked out of bounds with gates, this didn't prevent a number of people climbing through or squeezing past the fences marked "no entry" to gain access to this grassed area with a bank. As mentioned in my previous report, an excellent programme covered both this and this morning's games.

Loxwood finished their league season in third place to earn them promotion to the highest level the club has ever played at. They chalked up 70 points and 98 goals in their 32 league games, and have been impressive in reaching today's final, yet to concede a goal, having won 0-4 at Rustington, 2-0 at home to Broadbridge Heath and an eye catching 4-0 win against FA Vase semi-finalists and division champions Eastbourne United. Bexhill finished eighth in the division, par for the course compared with recent seasons although hopes were high for a promotion challenge this season. They racked up 45 points from their 32 games. To reach today's final, Bexhill have beaten Seaford Town 3-2 after extra time, local rivals Little Common 6-0, before beating Oakwood 1-0 with a goal deep into added on time in the semi-final to secure the club's first appearance in a county league cup final for 40 years. When the two teams met in the league, Loxwood won 5-4 at home in September and 1-5 away in November.

Having left the chilly breeze on the coast, this game was played in warm, sunny conditions, and the match started very much against the run of play, with Bexhill making the early running. They deservedly went into the lead on 15 minutes, when a free kick was played to the right of the area, and Jamie Salvidge swivelled and curled a low shot into the far corner. Loxwood's first real chance didn't come until the 32nd minutes when a header from a corner flashed just wide, but within three minutes, they were level. A long low ball was played through and Dean Wright tapped the ball past the onrushing keeper and it rolled into the empty net. Within a minute, Bexhill almost went back into the lead when a fierce shot was deflected wide with the keeper beaten. All square was how it remained at half time though, with little indication which way the game might go.

Loxwood were a team completely transformed in the second half, dominating play and creating plenty of chances, as Bexhill struggled to get out of their own half. However, as time ticked by, one wondered if this might be a game where Loxwood would be made to pay for not converting their superiority into goals, but finally on 78 minutes they did take the lead. The ball was played through the defence and Wright knocked the ball past the keeper for his second of the game. The floodgates had opened now, as two minutes later Loxwood had a ricocheted shot cleared off the line, but on 86 minutes they did score a third. The ball was played low across the goal and although the first shot was saved, the rebound was tucked away by Mark Cave. Two minutes from time and Loxwood scored their fourth. The ball was dribbled along the touchline before being pulled back for Wright to claim his hat-trick, smashing the ball home. So although the scoreline was perhaps slightly harsh on Bexhill, Loxwood thoroughly deserved to lift the cup, and credit to their manager for doing the necessary to waken his side up from a poor first half display.

No comments: