WHAT a difference a year makes.
Twelve months ago Peacehaven stumbled into the season after a summer of consternation and confusion, seemingly on the point of imploding.
Against expectations the Tye rallied to achieve a second sucessive top three finish, and they are now setting their sights higher. For the fist time in the club’s history they are setting their sights on life outside the County League.
On and off the pitch, building work has taken place for a concerted assault on promotion. A new one 150-seater stand has been put in place, alongside new dugouts and a fully refurbished club house. There is also a new principal sponsor in the form of financial firm Square One.
On the pitch Pete Edwards is now in sole charge, following the departure of former joint manager Terry Hall. Edwards has retained almost all of last season’s squad, with the only significant departure being youngster Freddie Barker, who is trying his luck at Burgess Hill.
Edwards has also brought in a number of new faces, with the return of the hugely popular Wes Millis from Crawley Down the most high profile signing. Millis had three succesful years at Piddinghoe Avenue before his acrimonious departure last summer.
Having won the league and cup double with the north Sussex side his return is a huge boost for Edwards’ side.
Another familiar face back in the fold is goalkeeper Jake Buss, who has returned following a year at Ringmer. Dave Altendorf has also made the move from the Caburn, Owen Callaghan has arrived from Shoreham and brothers Ben and Sol Bowra have arrived from Horsham YMCA and Hassocks respectively.
Equally significant may be the return, after two years out with injury, of Carl Dunk, injured playing for Sussex in 2009 and almost forgotten since.
The squad is significantly stronger than last season, with cover in almost every position. There are unlikely to be any more arrivals, unless Jordan Lang finds himself out of the picture at Lewes.
The biggest challenge for Edwards will be to keep more than 20 first team players happy, but he is conifident he can juggle his squad succesfully.
Pre-season has gone well, with some innovative training including boxercise and sandpit sessions. Having lost to a full strength Eastbourne Borough they drew with Burgess Hill last Friday, and face Whitehawk tomorrow (now at Withdean Stadium and NOT Peacehaven FC as previously advertised. Kick off 3pm).
Peacehaven started their season the hard way, against an Eastbourne Borough side who would face the Albion in the opening game at the Amex stadium days later. Borough were at full strength, and emerged comfortable winners, but Peacehaven were happy with their night’s work.
Pete Edwards used 22 players, including several new signings. Borough took an early lead through Steve Brinkhurst, but Peacehaven should have drawn level when Ashley Rees was brought down. Adam Kneller’s penalty failed to trouble the net, and from that point the visitors took full control. Further goals from Brinkhurst and Ian Pulman before half time put the result beyond doubt, and Sam Cole added a final goal in the second half.
Peacehaven’s second pre season outing was another encouraging affair. Edwards’ side more than matched Ryman League Hillians, and should probably have claimed a victory. That they didn’t will probably not overly concern Edwards, whose squad looks more formidable by the week.
The big news on that front came before kick off, with Wes Millis arriving to re-sign from Crawley Down.
Peacehaven looked the more assured side in the early stages, with the ball being passed around quickly and intelligently. With a squad of at least twenty no one can take their place for granted, and that is making these matches all the more important.
Tye took the lead when Tom Levitt cleverly fed Callaghan who in turn played in Craig Bunch for a simple finish.
Burgess Hill equalised before the break, and the match became increasingly open in the second half as the inevitable surge of substitutions started. Burgess Hill had the best opportunity to claim a win when Barker broke clear, but he was unable to claim the goal he must have been yearning for against his former club.
At the other end Ryan Bradley and Craig Hall both went close. The contest petered out rather towards the end, but it had been an encourging performance overall.
n Next week a Lark in the Park event is taking place at Peacehaven Sportspark, follwed by a friendly against Worthing (july 30, 3pm kicok off). Entry is by donation to charity, rather than payment at gate. Money raised will go to the club stand fund.