PEACEHAVEN set up a second place shoot out with Pagham tomorrow (Saturday) after a surprisingly narrow win over Division One strugglers St Francis Rangers.
Ryan Bradley’s first half strike was enough to earn them a fifth succesive win, and move them up to third place.
The situation at the top of the table is somewhat confused, with East Grinstead having played three fewer matches, but facing potential problems after a chaotic encounter at Arundel. Peacehaven are now within a point of tomorrow’s opposition, and will believe a victory will make them favourites for the runners-up spot, a remarkable achievement bearing in mind the chaotic start to the season.
If they are to win they will need to improve on this rather unconvincing performance.
They should have been comfortably clear at half time, but wasted a succession of chances and almost allowed their relegation threatened hosts back into the match.
Youngster Dan McDonnell made his debut in goal, and Craig Bunch returned in place of the injured Ashley Rees. St Francis had been thrashed 6-0 by Arundel at the weekend, and are one of a number of clubs whose future will probably be decided by the increasingly inpenetrable ground grading situation.
Peacehaven started quickly and were soon creating chances against a porous home defence. Adam Kneller drove over from the edge of the box and Rob O’Toole failed to find the target with a fiercely struck volley.
Bradley then broke clear and was advancing on goal, only to be denied by a rather dubious offside flag.
Minutes later Craig Hall played him through again, and this time he rounded Simon Lehkyi and put Peacehaven in front.
Peacehaven were well on top at the start of the second half and should have extened their lead, but Scott Marshall, Craig Bunch and Ryan Bradley all spurned opportunities. Bradley came closest, hitting the bar with a curling shot from the left.
On a sloping, rock hard pitch there was little opportunity for cultured play, and the ball was going from end to end increasingly rapidly. With nothing to lose the home side upped the tempo at the start of the second half. They were visibly gaining in confidence and starting to cause Haven some real problems.
Their direct approach was unsettling the visiting centre backs, and when Peter Martin broke clear a shock looked to be on the cards. ut McDonnell saved well, and the Tye heeded the warning, tightening up considerably by the end.
By the end St Francis had run out of steam, and Peacehaven were content to play out time.
PEACEHAVEN: McDonnell, Hall, Hill, Kneller, Saunders (Snell), Gunn, Levitt, Marshall, Bunch (MacKenzie), Bradley (Barker), O’Toole.
n AFC UCKFIELD has the better chances in a 0-0 hard-fought home draw with Division Two leaders Lancing on Tuesday night.
However, they were just unable to break down the strong visiting defence. Lancing, already ensured of promotion, are favourites for the league championship.
AFC Uckfield, with five league matches to play, still have an outside chances of winning the championship themselves, but need just one more point to secure promotion to Division One, a feat that, if achieved, would see the club in the county league top flight for the first time in its short 11-year history.
Also on Tuesday night, Seaford Town won 2-0 away to Little Common thanks to goals from Tom Chapman, on 20 minutes, and Lucas Mann, on 71. In Division Three, Uckfield Town crashed 3-0 away to Hurstpierpoint while Newhaven’s last league game of the season was one to forget as the Dockers were taken apart 5-1 by local rivals Saltdean United.