Isthmian south-east: Lancing and nine-man Littlehampton Town enjoy winning starts …Broadbridge Heath draw opener

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The Isthmian League south east division’s 23-24 programme began at the weekend – and Lancing and Littlehampton Town were among sides to win their openers, while Chichester City took a point from their first match. Reports here….

Lancing 1 Merstham 0

by Dave Wilmott

Lancing began the new league season with a win in front of the Culver Road faiithful.

George Gaskin celebrates Littlehampton Town's winner v Beckenham | Picture: Martin DenyerGeorge Gaskin celebrates Littlehampton Town's winner v Beckenham | Picture: Martin Denyer
George Gaskin celebrates Littlehampton Town's winner v Beckenham | Picture: Martin Denyer

One change – enforced on manager David Altendorff from the team which triumphed against Rusthall – saw him bring Dan Hull into central defence to replace Sam Bull, who had not recovered from an ankle injury.

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Merstham are new to this Division, having moved sideways from the South Central Division, where they finished in 18th position. A familiar face in the Merstham squad was ex-Lancer Lorenzo Lewis.

Lancing were pressing high from the kick off, and playing with confidence from the back. It took just 6 minutes for George Taggart to hit the target forcing a superb one handed save from keeper Zack Basey.

Lancing came close to conceding against the run of play when a defensive error presented centre forward Craig Kingswell with a clear-cut opening in the box but Alieu Secka was off his line in a flash to close him down and make a vital block.

Phoenix Sports take on Chichester City | Picture: Neil HolmesPhoenix Sports take on Chichester City | Picture: Neil Holmes
Phoenix Sports take on Chichester City | Picture: Neil Holmes

Basey was tested again by Lukas Franzen-Jones but was able to get down to palm a low drive away. The Lancing striker was again a threat having been sent goal-wards by a fine pass from Taggart and hit a low ball across the face of the goal. Franzen-Jones came close to giving Lancing the lead, latching onto a pass from Alex Laing but his effort was hooked away from the goal -line by a Merstham defender.

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Lancing were exploiting space on both flanks with Harry Heath on the left and Tyrone Madhani on the right able to get forward and pose a real threat. Laing, Taggart and Andrew Briggs were delivering a range of accurate balls to the wide men and Merstham were struggling to halt their advance into the final third.

Both full backs, Charlie Gibson on the left and Charlie Bennett on the right, were linking up well with their wide men and supporting attacks with overlapping runs. It was a strong run by Bennett which brought the first yellow card of the game when he was pulled back as he powered towards the box.

Despite Lancing’s domination, driven on by their energetic midfield trio, with skipper Laing in outstanding form, they were finding it difficult to get the goal their play merited. Merstham wasted another opportunity to punish a rare defensive slip by Gibson who conceded possession, close to goal. With the goal gaping, Craig Kingswell dragged the ball wide of the far upright.

Lancing had the final word as half time approached. Taggart was fouled at the edge of the box. Laing hit a superb free-kick which curled over the wall and was heading for the top corner but kept out by an outstanding one-handed save from Basey. Bennett went close with a header from a fine cross from Tyrone Madhani.

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There was some frustration from the Lancers at not being able to turn some very attractive play into at least one goal. Merstham would be kicking themselves at not taking advantage of a couple of golden opportunities.

Lewis made his return to Culver Road coming on at 46 minutes, replacing David Bangurah.

Lancing broke the deadlock on 50 minutes. Madhani was tripped and the free-kick was well controlled by Franzen-Jones but keeper Basey‘s agility allowed him to make another fine finger-tip save. But Lancing capitalised on the corner with Henry Watson rising at the far post to power his header home.

Shortly afterwards it was Secka’s turn to earn his keep with a low save to his left. Madhani and Heath continued to torment their full backs .Tyrone beat his man and delivered a promising cross but it cleared attackers and defenders.

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Lancing made their first substitution on 57 minutes with Kyle Sim replacing Gibson, who had received a blow to his ankle.

Franzen-Jones came close again. Laing had won yet another tussle for the ball, switching it to Madhani, who laid it into the path of Franzen-Jones but his effort cleared the bar. Heath finished a good run with a shot which went wide and Bennett intercepted a pass to lay the ball to Madhani, received the return pass but his effort on goal rolled narrowly past the upright.

Jaevon Dyer made his Lancing debut on 66 minutes, with Heath making way.

Laing continued to beaver away productively in midfield, this time creating a scoring opportunity for Franzen-Jones but he hit the ball wide. Lancing were desperate to get a second to kill off any hopes of a Merstham come back. Kyle Sim came close with a header from a corner, Taggart had a goal bound effort blocked by an outstretched leg and Laing had his shot deflected for a corner. Both Bennett and Jaevon Dyer showed their ability to dribble their way to the by-line but a second goal continued to elude Lancing.

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Lancing made their final substitution with a couple of added on minutes left bringing on Kaiden Hummerston for Franzen-Jones. Lancing’s goal had not been seriously threatened in a second half in which their back four were in complete control whenever Merstham attempted to get forward and the midfield stifled Merstham’s attempts to play the ball out through their middle men.

This was a welcome three points to get Lancing’s league season under way. The score line was not an accurate reflection of the Lancers’ superiority but Zack Basey performed superbly in goal for the visitors and there were a few missed chances.

Match ball sponsor Terry Cartwright chose skipper Laing as his Player of the Match for a superb all-round display, ball winning, a fine range of passing, covering so much ground and always ready to try to score. There were fine performances throughout the team. A bit more accuracy in front of goal will no doubt come.

Attendance: 201

Littlehampton Town 2 Beckenham Town 1

by John Clarke

After a comprehensive defeat at the hands of Erith and Belvedere in last Sunday’s FA Cup tie it was a long week for Golds boss Mitchell Hand. The young manager had said in response to the 6-0 humbling that it had been the worst performance he’d overseen as manager.

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He promised that he’d find a response from the group but when visitors Beckenham Town took the lead within five minutes of the start of Golds second campaign in the Isthmian League South East Division he could have been forgiven for thinking ‘Here we go again’.

Joe Summerbell conceded a free kick on the edge of the box and Danny Waldren took full advantage with a deflected shot that wrong footed James Binfield in the home goal. Golds didn’t let the setback affect them though and were soon asking questions at the other end.

However Jordan Layton fell foul of the referee’s strict interpretation of the laws and within half an hour was cautioned twice for tackles that were ill timed rather than vicious. It would have been easy to think the football Gods were against them yet Littlehampton remained positive and went in at the interval still very much in the game.

Indeed such light were Golds making of their depleted numbers that within three minutes of the restart they were level. George Gaskin’s run seemed to mesmerise Beckenham’s defence and he fed Dave Herbert who was in space on the edge of the box for the midfielder to finish with aplomb. ]

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Soon after the hour Golds had parity In numbers as well as on the scoresheet. Beckenham’s Ibrahim Jalloh was similarly harshly treated to two cautions which at least proved the referee’s interpretation of events was consistent.

The game then ebbed and flowed with close shaves at either end suggesting neither side had settled for a draw . However when Marshall Ball saw two yellow cards in rapid succession in the eight minutes of added time Golds would have been forgiven for taking the point they had. Instead they broke away in the 98th minute and suddenly George Gaskin found himself closing in on goal with just the keeper to beat.

A callow youth might have panicked but the wily campaigner finished coolly to give Golds a remarkable victory. Hand would rightly be proud of his team for the resilience and character shown although he will surely know finishing games with nine men is not the template for regular success this season.. Even so it was a stellar way to begin the league season and a massive boost to confidence for the campaign to come.

Phoenix Sports 0 Chichester City 0

by Ian Worden

Chichester’s 2023-24 Isthmian South East league campaign began with a share of the spoils away at newly promoted Phoenix Sports.

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Miles Rutherford & Co were forced into four changes to the starting XI dumped out of the FA Cup in the extra-preliminary round by Southall in the season curtain-raiser last time out.

Isaac Bello came in for Ryan Davidson at right back, Joe Clarke replaced Conor Honore in centre-mid, Emmett Dunn, who scored in the 2021-22 2-0 win over Phoenix at Oaklands, returned in place of Adam Biss, with Josh Clack starting for the absent Ethan Prichard.

Both teams, who exited the world’s oldest knock-out football competition at the first time of asking, created numerous chances but couldn’t break down stubborn defences in an end to end match. Clack linked up with Bello in the opening attack from which the latter earned a long throw which the hosts cleared.

Phoenix’s Bobby Mills then won a free-kick after referee David Spain deemed Ben Pashley’s second minute challenge a bookable offence. Captain Ryan Hayes’ set-piece did little to trouble Chi and Dunn got Clack going for a cross that was headed away before striker Steve Hutchings wasn’t able to control another Clack follow up.

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Bello saw off the danger posed by a Phoenix surge down the left and Mills unfairly tackled Clarke. A second Bello long throw-in was gathered by Steve Hutchings too robustly and he blazed one over the bar moments later. Rob Hutchings did well to head calmly back to custodian Kieran Magee as the home side threatened before a superb Clarke diagonal pass found Haitham but he couldn’t deliver precisely on 16 mins.

Next, Clarke picked out Bello for a rather wayward cross with a teammate offside anyway. Clarke then took one for the team to thwart Alfie Evans and joined Pashley in the ref’s notepad. A free-kick off the training ground from Hayes cleverly found Evans although Magee got down low to claim his cross from the right.

A clash of heads between Curtis Da Costa and Mills interrupted play for a couple of minutes with the Phoenix player receiving treatment before Lloyd Rowlatt and Clack exchanged a one-two which teed Bello up for a high snap shot that well-travelled 41-year-old keeper Andy Walker finally gathered. The Chi right back then glanced a free header wide 25 minutes in and Rob Hutchings’ delivery from the left following good work by Clack and Clarke was too deep.

Clack headed clear the first corner of the match a couple of minutes later and saw his diving header saved by Walker on the half hour mark. Some nice football set Rowlatt up for an opportunity that squirmed off target. Impressive defending by Ryan Sawyer meant he managed to intercept a ping intended for Haitham before lovely touches between Rowlatt and Steve Hutchings ended in a final ball that was just too strong.

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Rob Hutchings opened things up with a decent run which Phoenix eventually dealt with before the No3 was manhandled by Hayes in the subsequent attack. Hutchings took the free-kick himself and it finally came to Rowlatt who shot on the turn only for Haitham to be adjudged offside. Steve Hutchings and Clack then combined and after a bit of trickery and battling Dunn almost forged a chance.

In the last two minutes of normal time before the break Rowlatt had a shot blocked; Clack floated a set-piece in which came to nothing; and Henry Douglas intervened to concede a corner which caused a bit of havoc though to no avail. Clarke dragged an effort wide in time added on and Rowlatt almost played Haitham in but Walker was out swiftly to smother. Steve Hutchings headed the first opportunity of the second half just wide after a measured free-kick from his namesake.

One minute later Clack was dispossessed following a slick move and the hosts broke only for Pashley to beat Hayes to the ball. Curiously Da Costa gave the ball away cheaply to Isaac Thompson only for the No9 to fire high and wide. Key moments came and went in a 120 second spell when Phoenix had a sharp shot blocked; Walker denied Clack with a super parry for a corner; and Rowlatt’s attempt was turned out for one on the other side.

An odd altercation with Magee earned Matt Bourne a booking after the Chi keeper held on to an effort that struck him in the midriff. Hayes then whipped a cross over which a composed defender chested back to Magee. Thompson blazed another high and wide and just after the hour Steve Hutchings had a good chance but there wasn’t enough power on his header and it was steered out for a corner that was claimed easily enough by Walker.

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Clack’s cross field run opened things up on 63 although the consequent shot was blocked and then the deadlock might have been broken as a Phoenix back pass hit the post and went out for a Chi corner which Walker punched clear. Both sides rang the changes on 65 with Olly Munt coming on for Rowlatt who saw his first contribution turned out of danger.

Next, Hayes’ pusillanimous shot straight at Magee caused little trouble, but Mills pulled a fine save out of the opposition’s No1. Dunn did well to cover as Evans pressed and Sawyer saw yellow for hurling Steve Hutchings to the ground. Magee had another shot from Mills blasted too close to him and his counterpart was on hand to deny Steve Hutchings after Munt’s neat pass over the top.

Tyler Giddings and Adam Biss replaced Bello and Clarke for the last 15 or so and the former pulled an excellent take out of Walker. Phoenix sub Junior Sarpong did Rob Hutchings and Pashley with six to go but Magee gloved his shot out for a corner. Dunn beat the offside trap only to see his delivery similarly steered out.

And then came the game’s talking point following neat exchanges between Biss, Munt and Rob Hutchings – Was it in the area? Was it outside the area? Was it even handball? Some were ambivalent, but whatever, Mr Spain awarded Chi a free-kick outside the area. Haitham took this and Phoenix headed away.

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Both sides huffed and puffed in the five minutes of additional time but neither could find a winning goal.

Chi visit Broadbridge Heath in the Velocity Trophy on Saturday (3pm).

Chichester – Magee, Bello, Rob Hutchings, Clarke, Da Costa, Pashley, Dunn, Rowlatt, Steve Hutchings, Haitham, Clack. Subs – (Giddings, Biss, Munt, Horncastle, Mohamed).

Broadbridge Heath 2 Sheppey United 2

Broadbridge Heath’s first match at Step 4 of the non-league system ended in a draw as they welcomed one of the division’s promotion favourites Sheppey United to the BodyMould Community Stadium.

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Heath manager Chris Simmons made five outfield changes to his starting line-up with Captain Ryan Brackpool available again and partnering new signing Tad Bromage at the heart of Heath’s defence.

The Bears started well and had the first shot at goal on 8 minutes when Jamie Chesworth intercepted a pass wide on the left and played it inside to Mario Quisacca who in turn passed to Ashley Mutongerwa – and the Heath striker hit a low right foot shot from 25 yards that flew inches wide of the left post.

Sheppey went close with a couple of long range efforts, one flew over the Heath crossbar and minutes later, a shot from the left went across the face of the goal and wide of the right post for a goal kick.

The opening goal came on 19 minutes when a free-kick on the left was floated high into the Heath penalty area, Roshan Greensall came off his line to gather but the wind caught the ball and it sailed over the keepers head, hit the inside of the post, rebounded back across the face of goal to Daniel Bradshaw for a tap-in.

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Heath responded with Charlie Parmiter advancing down the right flank, taking the ball to the goal-line before picking out Jamie Chesworth 14 yards from goal but the full-back, on his weaker right foot, shot straight into the arms of the Sheppey keeper Aiden Prall.

Heath had a great chance to equalise on 33 minutes when Parmiter’s right wing cross found Quiasacca 18 yards from goal but the striker pulled his shot wide of the post. Minutes later Chesworth played a ball inside to Mutongerwa who advanced on goal before rifling a right foot shot from 25 yards that flew just over the crossbar.

Play continued from end to end with Sheppey coming close to doubling their lead 5 minutes before the break when Maliq Morris tried his luck with a right foot shot from distance that crashed against the Heath crossbar but it remained 0-1 at the break.

The Bears did come close to equalising on the hour mark when Chesworth played a free kick from the right into the danger area where Bromage headed just over. Midway through the half and it was all square when Brackpool’s long throw-in from the right was met at the near post by the head of Bromage who flicked it in at the far post to net on his debut.

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With 9 minutes remaining Greenshall was forced to save from a free-kick when he pushed the resulting shot over the crossbar but just as the game looked to be heading for a 1-1 draw the visitors regained the lead; a move down the right flank ended with a ball played in towards Frankie Del Morgan who stabbed it home from 12 yards to give the Ites the lead.

That was tough on the Bears who looked worthy of the draw but it wasn’t over yet and within a minute the scores were level. Mason Doughty was put through down the right, took the ball to the edge of the penalty area before unleashing a fierce right foot shot that the keeper saved at full stretch. The ball came back out to Matt Penfold who hit a left foot shot that once again the keeper did well to block but he only directed the ball to Charlie Weller who steered it in to the bottom right corner to give his team a deserved share of the points.

MOM: Tad Bromage on his debut

Boss Chris Simmons said: “It was a great occasion for everyone at the club, and I thought we were great value for at least a draw, the lads were fantastic and did everything we had asked of them against a very good Sheppey side that are tipped to be in the top five at the end of the season. We need to reach that level and above from now on and we will do okay.”

Next up for the Bears is another home match when they welcome Chichester City to the BodyMould Community Stadium for a Velocity Cup match on Saturday 19.

Heath: Greensall, Frankland, Chesworth, Scally (Doughty 65), Bromage, Brackpool, Weller, Penfold, Mutongerwa, Parmiter (Evans 73), Quiasacca (Lindsey 52).

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