Peacehaven fired out a warning to their title rivals with a comprehensive 4-0 Boxing Day defeat of Ringmer, writes Alex Panton.
A very powerful performance from Shaun Saunders side saw them secure the league leadership at the turn of the year, and on this form it is hard to see them relinquishing that position.
Ringmer, who included a smattering of former ‘haven players went into the match hoping to fire their way back into the title race, but from the moment Wes Millis blasted Peacehaven into a two goal lead just before half time there was only going to be one winner.
The home side, despite missing a number of players, were too powerful for the visitors all over the pitch, and the margin of victory hardly flattered them. Their major foe may well turn out to be the weather, with at least 23 matches scheduled for the rest of the season. Last season Rye looked unassailable at this stage before running into a fixture pile up, and that will be a concern at Piddinghoe Avenue.
With that in mind it was a relief that the elements had relented enough to allow this eagerly anticipated fixture to go ahead.
For a variety of reasons Saunders was without the likes of Craig Hall, Matt Hill, Callum Saunders and Kevin Keehan and selected a side built for attacking. Sammy Donnelly included former Peacehaven players Scott Marshall and Ryan Bradley, but was without Tom Lyons, who has departed for Redhill.
The match started quickly with both sides keen to impose themselves. Ringmer were probably the better side early on, but fell behind when Ryan McBride managed to swivel in the box and lift his shot into the roof of the net.
With an extra man in midfield Ringmer grew in strength as the first half wore on, and went close to drawing level when Marshall hit the bar.
At the break approached Peacehaven were being forced further back as John Westcott and Aaron Watson homed in on makeshift full backs Aaron Gunn and Joe Dryer, but against the run of play the lead was extended in injury time.
Millis made a late run into the box to meet Rob O’Toole’s cross and steadied himself before beating Steve Allfrey.
It was a hammer blow for the visitors, and one from which they never looked likely to recover.
Having exhibited a tendency to over elaborate earlier in the season Peacehaven have adopted a more direct approach of late, and it is a system which seems to suit their players much better and allows for greater fluidity in selections. Everyone understands what they are being asked to do and can come in and out of the team without too much disruption. Ringmer were clearly still playing to a pattern designed around the power and strength of Lyons, and the lone striker role is not one which suits Bradley. He got very little change out of the home defence, and despite some good work in midfield Ringmer were struggling to stay in the match.
When McBride tapped home his second of the morning following good work from Wes Tate the game was over as a contest.
Ashley Jones completed the scoring with a good finish following a free kick. It completed a good week for Jones, who had married into the Saunders family days earlier.
PEACEHAVEN: Adams, Gunn (Murray), Dryer, Jones, Millis, Swetman, O’Toole, Dunk, Rees (G Loraine), McBride, Tate (Wilkinson).
RINGMER: Allfrey, MBaye, Sowter, Price, Hassan, Reid, Westcott, Marshall, Bradley, Pollard, Watson SUBS: Brown, Whiteman.