Sussex Senior Cup Round Three
Priory Lane, Eastbourne
Match Rating: 3
Once the draw was made for Round Three of the Sussex Senior Cup, which rewarded Little Common's two previous wins in the competition against clubs from the same division with a plum tie at the home of a club four steps above them in the pyramid, this was a game I was never going to miss.
There has been little in the way of ground modifications at Priory Lane since my last visit in pre-season 2012, not that any were needed, with more than sufficient capacity for a club in the Conference South, cover available around most of the ground, plenty of seating in the main stand, with a rather quirky look to the area behind one of the goals. A much smaller programme than usual was produced for this fixture, consisting of 12 pages and printed in black and white apart from the colourful cover, although no complaints for a sensible price of £1, whilst still retaining a good quality look and feel to it.
Although Eastbourne Borough's league standing may not be an ideal indicator of the gap between the two clubs, given that they would not field their strongest team for this fixture, they are in eleventh place in the 21 team Conference South, with six wins and seven draws from their 18 games, whilst Little Common were in eighth place in the Sussex League Division Two, with seven wins and two draws from their 17 games. To reach this stage, Eastbourne Borough beat Sussex League Division One outfit Newhaven 5-1 at home after receiving a bye in the first round, whilst Little Common had beaten Seaford Town 0-7 away and then local rivals Bexhill United 2-0 at home.
On a really horrible evening weather-wise, with a strong wind and intermittent rain, the first half started surprisingly even, with the weather conditions perhaps acting something of a leveller, with the underdogs more than holding their own after the home side saw a shot by Darren Lok hit the woodwork inside the first two minutes. On 21 minutes, Eastbourne's Dean Sinclair went into a strong, but perfectly legal tackle with Little Common's Dan Hill, but it immediately became very apparent that Hill had come off worse, as he screamed in pain and lay motionless on the pitch. As the players left the pitch and an ambulance was called, news spread that Hill had broken his leg. After a delay of around half an hour, the match restarted, and followed a very similar pattern to that of the first half, with the Eastbourne players struggling to place passes and Little Common more than holding their own, and deservedly went into the much delayed half-time break on level terms, a fabulous achievement considering that Eastbourne Borough's line-up this evening saw just four changes from the team who played in the league on Saturday.
However, parity was to last just over a minute into the second half, with the first of several wonderfully taken goals. Ryan Worrall created space for himself 30 yards out, before striking a powerful shot which went into the top corner. It was tough on the minnows to fall behind to such a wonderful strike, but they went further behind by arguably an even better goal on 59 minutes. After Little Common failed to clear a corner, the ball fell to Moses Ashikodi, who acrobatically volleyed the ball into the net, giving the keeper no chance. Three minutes later and it really was game over as a contest, as Kane Hayesman danced around some defenders before firing the ball low through the keeper and into the net for 3-0. The scoreline became rather unfortunate for Little Common on 65 minutes. It had seemed the chance had gone when Gavin McCallum delayed his shot when in a central position in front of goal, but after making space, he fired the ball low across the keeper. Although the game was up for Little Common by now, they did quickly grab a consolation goal when player-manager Russell Eldridge saw his corner swerve straight into the net. The game then died down until the very last minute, when Eastbourne Borough restored their four goal lead, Sinclair managing to deflect the ball goalwards from close range at the near post following Sam Beale's low cross into the box. The result was a little harsh on Little Common, who looked capable of causing a remarkable upset at half time, but they gave an excellent account of themselves, with everyone's best wishes reserved for a speedy recovery for Dan Hill.