Dockers dreams dashed: Newhaven miss out on promotion to Isthmian League

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Newhaven fell short of reaching the Isthmian League for the first time in their history on Sunday, as they were defeated 2-0 by Eastbourne Town in the SCFL Premier Division Play-off Final.

In front of a crowd of more than 1,000, the Dockers succumbed to two late goals to leave the division’s form team, Eastbourne Town, celebrating promotion.

It was Town who got out of the blocks quickest. Former Docker James Waters was just off target early-on with an acrobatic bicycle kick, while Jake Buss made a good save to deny Ollie Davies.

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Six minutes before half-time, Newhaven were within inches of taking the lead, as Town twice cleared the ball off the line in the matter of seconds following an almighty goalmouth scramble.

Newhaven were in fine form for most of the season - but could not quite get over the line in the play-offs | Picture: Paul TrunfullNewhaven were in fine form for most of the season - but could not quite get over the line in the play-offs | Picture: Paul Trunfull
Newhaven were in fine form for most of the season - but could not quite get over the line in the play-offs | Picture: Paul Trunfull

The Dockers started the second-half in more positive fashion, and were close to being duly rewarded 10-minutes after the restart. Callum Edwards burst through on goal, tried to chip Chris Winterton, but the keeper just about managed to get enough on the ball to tip it inches over the bar.

With 20 minutes remaining, the game was firmly in the balance, with neither side having really stamped their authority on it. At this stage it could have gone either way.

However, during the last 20 minutes, the pendulum swung firmly in Town’s favour as they put their visitors under sustained pressure.

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The hosts missed two gilt-edged chances within minutes of each other with 15-minutes left, but it was to be only a temporary reprieve for the Dockers.

In in the 82nd minute, Ollie Davies – who had only moments earlier spurned one of those aforementioned gilt-edged opportunities, headed home a cross from the right

If that wasn’t quite the killer blow, then the coup de grâce was delivered just two minutes later. This time a cross from the left was met by the head of recently arrived sub, James Stone – although how much he knew about it is hard to say – and the ball looped agonisingly past the despairing grasp of Buss to send the Town players, bench and fans into raptures.

Newhaven couldn’t respond so it is Eastbourne Town who will line-up in the Isthmian South-East League next season.

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Despite the disappointing end to the campaign, Newhaven FC Chairman Martin Garry was proud of the club’s efforts and remains optimistic that, come July, they will be ready to go again.

“Despite a difficult start to the season, which required a squad rebuild due to a number of unplanned departures, it turned out to be a successful season,” Garry said. “Driven by the drive and commitment of the management team and the players we were extremely close to sealing what would have been, in my opinion, a deserved promotion.”

And the disappointment of losing in the play-offs has certainly not dampened Garry’s hopes of launching another challenge next season. “We will now look to regroup again for the year ahead and, hopefully, with a more settled squad we will be in the running yet again to try and progress to the next level.”

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