Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Sidlesham 1 v 2 Hurstpierpoint

Saturday 3rd May 2014
Sussex League Division Three
Memorial Ground, Sidlesham
Admission and programme: None
Attendance: 47
Match Rating: 2

Today I decided to tick off my final ground in the three divisions of the Sussex County League, something I had planned to do several times previously only to be tempted elsewhere late on. Unfortunately my landmark occasion would turn out to be a rather unremarkable event, both on and off the pitch.

The Memorial Ground is about a 20 minute bus ride south from Chichester train station, with the entrance visible with attractive club signs and a fixture board on the main Selsey road. At the end of a short gravel track, one notices a peaceful, rural ground, surrounded by trees. A small corrugated iron stand covers a couple of terrace steps straddling the half way line. The pitch is fully railed off, and with hard standing along three sides, the length opposite the stand being the odd one out, and there is quite an expanse of grass behind this length. Floodlights are present, however they have not been in operation for several seasons. A large low clubhouse is situated behind one of the goals, with a tea bar hatch out of the front, but apart from a couple of bright club signs outside the entrance, is a pretty dreary and uninviting building, inside and out. Surprisingly, no admission was taken nor programmes produced for today's game.

On this, the last day of the Sussex County League season, Sidlesham went into this game in fifth place in the league, but with the two teams above them three points ahead but having completed their fixtures. With fourth placed Uckfield Town having the same goal difference, any win for Sidlesham today would see them move into fourth, whilst a three goal victory would be sufficient to overhaul Roffey into third and a possible promotion berth. Hurstpierpoint have absolutely nothing to play for but pride, in seventh place with 25 points from 19 games, four points adrift of sixth placed Ifield and all teams below them having completed their fixtures. They have had a successful season though, having won the Sussex Intermediate Cup. When today's teams met earlier in the season, Sidlesham ran out 1-3 winners.

On a warm, sunny afternoon, Sidlesham started with the expected urgency to score, and on 16 minutes, they had a goal disallowed. A cross was missed by the keeper, but the striker handled the ball in taking control before tapping it into the empty net. On 19 minutes, Hurstpierpoint took a surprise lead with a great goal. There didn't seem to be a lot on when James Sharp took possession of the ball 25 yards out, so he took aim and hit a powerful low drive into the bottom left corner which the keeper really should have got something behind. On 28 minutes, Sidlesham got back on level terms with a strange goal. A corner was poorly struck low to the near post, the Hurstpierpoint defenders didn't clear the ball away, and Paul Grantham stabbed the ball in off the post from a couple of yards. That didn't really seem to kick Sidlesham on, as the game meandered to a 1-1 half time scoreline, with third place looking a very distant prospect for the home team.

Not much changed during the second half, as Sidlesham never looked likely to rack up the comprehensive win they needed, and it looked nigh on impossible when they had a player sent off on 57 minutes for an ugly late challenge. On 70 minutes, Hurstpierpoint went back into the lead. Again, the home players seemed uninterested in closing attacking players down, and Sean Trend had all the time in the world to place his shot into the right hand side of the net. Only in the last ten minutes did Sidlesham seriously threaten to score, on 80 minutes a free kick into the box led to some desperate attempts to poke the ball home but it was eventually scrambled away, and in added on time, a ball over the top into the penalty area resulted in a shot on goal which the keeper acrobatically parried away. But it was Hurstpierpoint who claimed a thoroughly deserved victory, whilst Sidlesham had to settle for fifth place after an extremely disappointing and lethargic performance which sees the club consigned to intermediate football again next season.

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