The County League title race looks as though it will come down to a battle between Peacehaven and East Preston after Redhill were blown off course 4-0 at the Sports Park on Saturday, writes Alex Panton.
Whilst they are still mathetematically in the equation (still level on points with the Tye at the top of division one with just two more games played), it is hard to see Redhill coming back from a defeat as comprehensive as this.
Peacehaven were too strong, too powerful and too ruthless for the Surrey side, who yet again failed to produce the goods when it really mattered.
The Sussex outfit on the other hand got the result they desperately needed after an alarming slump in form, culminating in an anaemic RUR Cup semi-final defeat to East Preston on Thursday night.
What a difference 48 hours made. Perhaps sensing that they could not afford another slip, Peacehaven tore into Redhill, and by half time the match was as good as over as a contest.
The chase now turns into an endurance race. As of Saturday Peacehaven had 15 matches left to play before the first week of May, with the majority away from home. East Preston have two more, but have the advantage of their last six all being at home. A decisive result when the sides meet this Saturday would change the equation, but whoever wins the race will have done it the hard way.
Shaun Saunders was without the suspended Kevin Keehan and injured Matt Hill and brought Wes Tate back into the starting line-up in place of Carl Dunk. Kerry Mayo rolled back the years to start in his familiar left back berth.
Redhill were unbeaten in 11 matches and went into the match top of the table, though they’d played those two extra matches.
Peacehaven had a dream start within five minutes as Tate’s wind-assisted cross deceived everyone and beat Chris Duffy at the back post.
It was just the start the home side needed and Tate was again instrumental in their second goal. Breaking clear of a ridiculously high defensive line he fed Joe Dryer, who finished clinically.
Peacehaven were now in full control, and with Kneller and Jones imperious in defence, it was hard to see how the visitors could get back into the match.
Redhill were down and all but out when another slice of good fortune saw Peacehaven go three clear just before the break. Tate’s free kick swerved away from Duffy and into the roof of the net, though the keeper will surely feel he should have done better.
Tate completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot after the break, but the highlight for many in the crowd was the reappearance of Tom Burton, newly re-signed from Crawley Down and making his first competitive appearance of the season following a serious knee injury.
The vast majority of games on Saturday were washed out with a continuation of the appalling weather that has struck the football programme all winter. Only Rye United v Selsey (result: 3-3) in division one, and Hurstpierpoint v Clymping (result: 1-1) in division 3, went ahead of the 1st XI matches. In the Reserve Section (East), Sidley United won a ‘home’ match 2-0 with Seaford Town that was actually played at Seaford.
There is a busy schedule of fixtures in the county league tomorrow (Tuesday) night. In Division 1 the games are: Chichester City v Redhill; Crowborough Athletic v East Preston; East Grinstead Town v Hassocks; Horsham YMCA v Selsey; Lancing v Peacehaven; Lingfield v Hailsham Town; Pagham v Rye United; Sidley United v Worthing United and St Francis Rangers v Shoreham.
In Division 2 the games are: Broadbridge Heath v Loxwood; Little Common v Westfield; Littlehampton Town v Southwick; Seaford Town v Eastbourne United AFC; Wick v Rustington.
On Wednesday night, Saltdean United visit Mile Oak in Division 2.
On Friday, Seaford Town take on Littlehampton Town in the Division Two Challenge Cup Final. The game is at Peacehaven FC’s Sports Park and kicks off at 11am.
Peacehaven (v Redhill): Adams, Hall, Mayo, Jones, Millis, Kneller (Swetman), O’Toole (Burton), Gunn (Dunk), Rees, Tate, Dryer.