The Oval, Eastbourne
Sussex RUR Cup 2nd Round
Match Rating: 3
After several weeks of not fancying midweek action, there was a plethora of attractive choices for me this evening. In the end, I chose to visit The Oval for a cup tie that was originally drawn with Little Common as the home team, but ongoing issues with their floodlights meant that the tie was switched.
Having been almost completely redeveloped in 2012, it is hardly surprising that there have been no obvious alterations to The Oval since my last visit in April 2014, and the programme remains of good quality with plenty to read inside.
On paper, the home team would be favourites this evening, as they play in the division above the visitors in the Southern Combination League (formerly the Sussex County League). Eastbourne United had won two and drawn two of their seven league games so far and were in twelfth place in the Premier Division. Little Common had won four and drawn three of their seven league games and were in seventh place in Division One. It would be interesting to see how the home team would react to their manager, who took the club to the FA Vase semi-finals a couple of seasons ago, resigning yesterday.
This evening was a sign of things to come, with a cold feel to the dry evening, and the game almost had an explosive start, with Little Common's Zac McInery seeing his header from a free kick come back off the bar, and then the home side went straight down the other end with a long ball finding Liam Baitup, but with the keeper in no mans land, Baitup fired tamely into the keeper's arms. The rest of the first half was surprisingly even, with Eastbourne disappointing with their rather sloppy and slow play, and Little Common, for the most part, stayed on level terms quite comfortably. The two teams traded a great chance to open the scoring - first Eastbourne saw a shot parried at blank range and then the follow up shot was ballooned over from close range, whilst Little Common saw a header from a corner cleared off the line.
90 seconds into the second half and Eastbourne took the lead, when Baitup thumped home an unstoppable shot. For most of the rest of the half, they looked comfortable in their lead without looking like to extend it, and in the final ten minutes, Little Common began to pile on the pressure, still without really convincing that they would score. However, in injury time they did just that when the ball from a throw in found Dan Ethersby, and his shot on the turn went hit the inside of the far post and went into the net. The visitors came close to winning the tie in normal time, but a close range header was held by the keeper.
But the tie went into extra time, which was not particularly welcome on a cold evening with a stiff breeze coming in from the Channel. Little Common continued with the momentum they ended normal time, and it was then not a surprise when they took the lead ten minutes into extra time when Will Spice glanced the ball with his head into the net via the inside of the far post. Surprisingly Eastbourne never looked likely to force a penalty shoot-out, and it was Little Common who looked much the more likely to score, but they did not need to and they progress to the next round, where they will host Crowborough Athletic of the Southern Counties East Football League, whilst Eastbourne United's new manager, Tobi Hutchinson, had a disappointing first game in charge.