Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Hailsham Athletico 0 v 1 Ticehurst II

Eastbourne Coach Finishers Challenge Cup Final
Monday 23rd March 2015
Recreation Ground, Little Common
Admission and Programme: £3.00
Attendance: 65 (estimate)
Match Rating: 3

With the intention of attending most if not all of the cup finals featuring East Sussex League club this season, tonight I attended the first, which was for the lowest ranked teams in the league.

Tonight's game was the final of a competition for clubs in the bottom two divisions of the East Sussex League, Divisions 5 and 6. The two teams are both only in their second seasons in existence, with Hailsham Athletico being formed and Ticehurst entering a second team for the first time, both clubs would be competing for their first piece of silverware. In the league, Hailsham Atletico are currently in fourth position, with 23 points from 12 games, but with at least two games in hand on the top three, a runners up spot is quite attainable. Ticehurst II are in seventh place in the 12 team division, with 15 points from just ten games, so a top half table looks likely. The two teams have not met in the league yet this season, and will play both games in a double-header fixture in early May. To reach tonight's final, Hailsham Atletico beat Sedlescombe Rangers II 4-5 away, then lost 1-5 to Mayfield but were awarded the tie after Mayfield fielded an ineligible player, and beat Orington 0-2 in the semifinal, whilst Ticehurst II beat Icklesham Casuals II 1-10 away, AFC St Leonard's 3-6 away, Victoria Baptists 1-3 away, and holders Grasshopper Old Boys on penalties in the semifinal.

On a dry but very chilly evening, this game was full of commitment throughout, with plenty of full blooded but generally legal challenges going in, although the occasionally theatrical reactions of Hailsham's players to strong challenges was disappointing. Although the match was very even, it was Hailsham who carved out more clear goalscoring opportunities, particularly during the second half, but saw efforts on goal go just the wrong side of the woodwork or drew good saves from the keeper, although Ticehurst certainly had their moments too.

As the second half drew to a conclusion, extra-time seemed a certainty to endure for the freezing cold spectators, until Ticehurst were awarded a penalty after a Hailsham defender handled the ball in the area. Alex Kingshott struck the ball to the bottom left corner, despite the keeper getting a faint touch as the ball passed him. Within a minute, Hailsham did have a chance to force extra time, but a long punt down field was headed on and just over the bar. And so it was Ticehurst who held on to lift the trophy shortly after the final whistle. Hailsham will be disappointed to be on the losing side having squandered several good chances to score, but this was certainly no smash and grab victory by Ticehurst, who more than contributed  to an entertaining and fully committed ninety minutes of football, and was a good advert for the quality of the lowest divisions of the East Sussex League.

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