Bexhill United suffered their first league defeat since the end of September yesterday (Saturday).
The Pirates went down 3-1 away to Midhurst & Easebourne in a Macron Store Sussex County Football League Division Two fixture which ended 10-a-side.
Although Bexhill had won all of their previous four games and clinched the division’s team of the month award for December, their opening match of 2015 had all the makings of a banana skin.
Bexhill made their longest trip of the league season with a heavily depleted side. A handful of players were at a wedding, Chris Cumming-Bart was suspended, Toby Clifford injured and Andy Atkin ill.
Bexhill manager Marc Munday played despite struggling with a knee injury since prior to Christmas and gave the captain’s armband to Andy Garman in the absence of Jack Aston.
Although 10th-placed Midhurst were beaten 4-2 in the reverse fixture on December 6, they had won their two subsequent matches without conceding and took a 10th minute lead with a goal from Liam Dreckman.
The Pirates’ best chance of the first half fell to Garman on 37 minutes, but his shot was saved by Midhurst goalkeeper Dan Robert.
The opening period ended in controversy when Munday received a straight red card, meaning the Pirates went down to 10 men, and Garman picked up a yellow card in a separate incident soon afterwards.
The second half produced lots of highlights and talking points. The action started with a great shot from Scott McDonald being saved by the goalkeeper, closely followed by a second Midhurst goal scored by Scott Towers.
Shortly after that a great individual effort by Bexhill striker Jamie Crone made it 2-1. Midhurst had a goal ruled out for offside soon afterwards and they too then had a player sent-off when Andrew Newton was shown his second yellow card.
The Pirates continued to push for the equalising goal through the second half with the best chance falling to Allan McMinigal which the Midhurst goalkeeper saved in the 80th minute.
Five minutes later Miles Hamilton sealed Bexhill’s first away league defeat of the season with a third Midhurst goal. Bexhill remain second in the table, but their pursuers all have games in hand.
One of the highlights of the afternoon for Bexhill was the great performance by young Josh Clifford, as well as the senior debuts of Corey Wheeler and Leroy Andrews from Dean Jinks’ reserve team. Both showcased their talents and potential for the future.
Bexhill: Camara, Cooper, Ottley, Munday, J. Clifford (Andrews), Wheeler, Garman, G. Aston, Crone, McDonald, McMinigal. Sub not used: White.
Elsewhere in the division, Little Common’s match at home to Haywards Heath Town and Westfield’s game away to Steyning Town were postponed due to waterlogged pitches.
Standings (played-points): 1 Worthing United 17-42, 2 BEXHILL UNITED 20-39, 3 Wick & Barnham United 16-36, 4 AFC Uckfield 19-36, 5 Mile Oak 17-31, 6 Oakwood 15-27, 7 LITTLE COMMON 19-26, 8 Haywards Heath Town 19-26, 9 Steyning Town 16-25, 10 Midhurst & Easebourne 18-25, 11 WESTFIELD 18-21, 12 Rustington 18-20, 13 Saltdean United 17-14, 14 Storrington 19-13, 15 Seaford Town 20-0.