Southern Combination League Premier Division
Crabtree Park, Littlehampton
Match Rating: 3
Today I decided on a very rare Saturday visit to a game in my most local Step 5 league, to revisit a ground that I had not visited for over 11 years. It looked like I might have been a big mistake, with a very wet forecast, which became reality as I headed west from Brighton on the train and into increasingly heavy rain, and I had no realistic back-up plan available. Happily, the rain did ease a couple of hours before kick off
Crabtree Park is about a half hour walk northwards from Littlehampton train station, and after walking along a short residential road and then the club car park, spectators enter via an attractive brick turnstile block, with the club initials coloured into the brickwork, into one corner of the ground. Between the corner flag and the half way line, there is an old fashioned and rather charming stand, with three rows of seating inside, whilst on the opposite side, there is a smaller stand, again painted in club colours, covering a standing area. Around the rest of the ground there is just hard standing, whilst the club house is situated some way back behind one of the goals, with a patio with picnic tables to the front, a tea bar by the entrance on the ground floor, and a spacious, modern clubhouse on the first floor, which offers a good elevated view of the pitch. With tall trees around most of the ground, this is a neat, attractive, homely and cared for venue. The 20 page programme was reasonable and contained all of the essentials and some interesting material to read, whilst mention should be made of a really reasonable entrance fee for this level of football these days, which compares very favourably with most other clubs in this part of world charging up to £8.00.
After an ill-fated two year spell as Wick and Barnham United, Wick demerged from Barnham FC in the close season, and they find themselves fourth bottom in the division, with two wins and five defeats from their opening seven league games. After running Horsham close for the Champions and single promotion spot last season, Eastbourne Town have had a disappointing start to their season, winning three, drawing one and losing the other five of their nine league games so far, losing their last three league games, and shipping five goals in two of those games.
With the earlier rain giving way to brighter and dry conditions, albeit with a strong gusty wind, the first half in particular was played at a high tempo, which occasionally threatened to boil over, and both teams played some good attacking football. It was a surprise that only one goal came before the interval, on 7 minutes. The ball was swung into the box, the keeper completely missed the ball and defender turned striker Sean Ray got the final touch as the ball went in off the far post.
At half time, the game was very much in the balance, but the visitors extended their lead on 55 minutes. After advantage was played following a foul in midfield, Chris Cumming-Bart kept on running eventually into the penalty area, before shooting gently back into the far corner. A little harshly on the hosts, Eastbourne Town put the result beyond all realistic doubt on 63 minutes. They broke very quickly from a Wick corner and Cumming-Bart struck the ball goalwards and although it struck the keepers body, it bounced into the net. Wick had the chance to score a consolation goal 6 minutes from time when they were awarded a penalty for a doubtful foul in the box, but the shot struck low was comfortably saved by the keeper. Wick's disappointment was compounded within a minute when Eastbourne scored their fourth, Tyler Capon striking a lovely shot on the run from outside the area, with the ball flying past the keeper and into the far corner of the net.