Midhurst and Eastbourne promoted - but war of words breaks out with defeated Shoreham

An intuitive Marcus Bedford goal on 75 minutes gave Midhurst and Easebourne a win against Shoreham in the SCFL Division One play-off final. But Shoreham manager Mark Pulling sparked a war of words afterwards when he accused Midhurst of bringing in players especially to help them over the line - a claim the Stags said was simply not true.

Visitors Shoreham had chances to alter the game’s direction but couldn’t get the finish in a tight clash between the promotion hopefuls.

Both had early penalty shouts turned down with Shoreham’s Jordan Stallibrass pushed when leaping for a header and Ricardo Alves wiping out Lewis Hyde at the other end - both credible and perhaps given later in a game.

Sign up to our daily SussexWorld Today newsletter

The main chances saw Stallibrass volleying just over from 25 yards when Josh Bird was caught off his line and with a minute to go Kieran Carter played in Marcus Bedford to shoot wide of Alves’ post for the hosts.

On the restart Stallibrass sent Shoreham winger Ramon Santos through one-on-one with Bird, but his low shot was blocked 15 yards out by recovering defence.

Bedford missed a glorious chance to go ahead scuffing his ten-yard shot with Alves on the floor; John Lansdale and Stallibrass then forced Bird to make two saves as they shot at his near post.

Midhurst celebrate their promotion after beating Shoreham / Picture: Tommy McMillan

Fifteen minutes from time and Marcus Bedford scored after a mix up in defence saw nobody clear a long ball upfield on the edge of the area. Alves came to deal with the danger but was pipped to the ball by Bedford who volleyed over Alves’ shoulder and over the line as Momah tried to clear.

Shoreham piled on the pressure but the damage had been done, the whistle blew and Midhurst and Easebourne celebrated promotion to the premier division with blue smoke and champagne.

Midhurst Manager Andy Ewen said: "‘The group has stayed loyal and they’ve got their rewards today. We’ve lost a few big games this year but they’ve come together, stuck together, and showed a bit of togetherness…We defended superbly."

Shoreham manager Mark Pulling said: ‘In terms of attitude, application, everything we asked them to do they tried to do and we probably just ran out of steam.’

‘I know they’ve called upon a few players outside of this league to come and get them promoted that haven’t played for them all season - that’s their way, that’s fine. I could have done that but I think I’ve got a bit more integrity and a little bit more respect for the players that have played for me all season, instead of running off to Isthmian clubs to get three or four players to come play for one game... [it] doesn’t seem ethical."

Pulling's comments brought a quick response from Midhurst FC on Twitter, their club account tweeting: "Would love them to name who they think we brought in. Then I can give them a list of appearances for our club. #sourgrapes"

Ewen said: "I wouldn’t normally worry what others think but Mark's quote it totally wrong. The only Isthmian player who’s registered with us is Lewis Hyde he’s a personal friend of ours. For the past two and a half years he’s played for us and been a major part of us, he was with us as it fitted in with his life at the time.

"He was originally only going to be with us for a season but enjoyed his football and wanted to help us get promoted, Covid hit and he went back to the level he should be at. He signed for us before he did Chichester and has played for us this season when he’s needed minutes or not had a game. It’s worked well - this weekend our vice-captain was struggling so it was a no-brainer for me to ask a mate for a favour.

"The play-off final win was a real credit to everyone involved at our football club, I remember our first game back in 2019 in front of 17 people - so to see the ground like it was yesterday, with 325 paying fans in, is what these players deserve - they’ve given us everything.

"I’ve been hard on them but they’ve bought into what we wanted and it has worked. To finish runners-up to Roffey who totally deserved to be crowned champions then pick ourselves up and go via the play-offs with a league cup win in between, the lads should be really proud of what they’ve achieved I can’t praise them enough.

"The management team I’ve around me deserve a lot of credit - you're only as good as what’s around you and they’re top drawer."