The exemplary first-half performance of a ruthless Oakwood side, easing past a nondescript Ringmer XI, was overshadowed by a sombre abandonment following Grant Miller’s unfortunate serious injury early into the second period, reports Will Hugall.
Making four changes to the side which fell to a narrow 1-0 defeat at home to high-flying Saltdean United just five days previous, manager Ash Bailey drafted in Ben Kirk-Patrick at left-back for Ben Palmer, as well as handing debuts to a brand new front three; striker Jack Webber, attacking midfielder Ryan Collins and winger Luke Donaldson forcing out Declan Lunn-Gorman, Ade Fermin and Brandon Morley.
After making the speedy trip up the A27 to the secluded Tinsley Lane for a crucial bottom-half clash, what became primarily obvious was that the playing conditions; one of the flattest, most pristine pitches in the league, would play into the hands of whichever team settled into a passing game. Immediately, then, as the Oaks forced Ringmer’s defensively lines backwards from the off, the forewarnings to an early goal, especially after Lee Thompson’s last ditch block on Kieron Purkis denied the diminutive striker’s close-range shot in the 7th minute, became clear.
These warning signs quickly came to fruition in just the 10th minute, as the effervescent home captain Darren Tidey escaped down the right wing thanks to Miller’s floated through ball, before squaring it to an unmarked Purkis in the centre, who volleyed in past Hutchins. Other than the lack of defensive organisation at fault for the goal, part of the blame had to be shouldered on debutant Donaldson’s failure to track back, aiding the vulnerable Kirk-Patrick, either due to a minor early injury or a sudden self-destructive mentality.
With Brandon Morley quickly replacing Donaldson in an unfamiliar left wing position, limiting the attacking threat of the under-the-cosh Blues - who were unable to string accurate passes together, let alone prevent Oaks’ players from easing into dangerous positions like hot knives through butter – one quickly became two for the home side. In the 20th minute, with the Blues’ left flank struggling to adapt to their unnatural positions, Purkis took advantage; breaking free to the by-line and whipping in a high cross for Charlie Adsett to easily nod in, possibly fortunate that even though his bullet header was directed close to Hutchins, it had sufficient power on it to beat the goalkeeper.
During the following period, it was at last the Blues who demonstrated a little mettle, with Steve Jackson’s deceptive free kick from the left testing nervy goalkeeper Jamie Craven, who was being forced into possession more often, for their first shot on target. Despite this marked improvement, by the 44th minute, and with no further inroads made into the already daunting scoreline, an instinctive close-range finish from Tidey rounded off Oakwood’s perfect half. Set up by the disputably offside Clive Piller on the left wing with a low through-ball, Tidey nipped in ahead of Hutchins, just a matter of milliseconds before the goalkeeper would’ve claimed the ball, then rounding him and tapping into an open goal from a matter of yards.
Heading into a second half in which the Blues would have to make a dramatic improvement to even dent the scoreline, the early signs were that their half-time team talk had inspired them to push forward with intent, with Jackson, amongst others, threatening much more. Just five minutes in, however, as both Ryan Collins and Grant Miller slid in for a free ball in midfield, with the familiar smack of their studs connecting reverberating around the ground, it soon became apparent that in the 50-50 it was the Oakwood player who had come off worse.
After a period of increased caution for his state, and with an ambulance arriving to treat his presumed broken lower leg, both sides eventually agreed to abandon the match in respect of Miller’s condition after half an hour of patient consideration.
With best wishes sent to Miller with his recovery and a rescheduling certain soon, the Blues next head back home to play league leaders Little Common at the Caburn next Saturday, kick off 3PM.
Ringmer: Hutchins, Simpson, Kirk-Patrick, Thomsett (C), Thompson, Stracey, Jackson, Shelley, Webber, Collins, Donaldson (Morley, 13 mins)
Subs not used: Milburn, Geer, Robinson, Olive