Bexhill United’s footballers defied the absence of around half their squad to grind out a hard-fought win on Saturday.
The Pirates triumphed 4-2 away to Steyning Town in Macron Store Southern Combination Football League Division One despite seeing a 2-0 lead cancelled out.
Bexhill manager Marc Munday said: “We’ve got 25 people who I would class as first team players signed on and I went without 13 of them. Whether it was V Festival, weddings, birthday parties, everyone was away at the same time.
“To be fair to the boys that were there, they were fantastic. I was especially pleased with Kevin Barden, Corey Wheeler and Ben Phipps.”
Bexhill could only name one substitute and Sam Cooper, dual registered with Hastings United, made his debut in goal having expected to be playing up-front. Another new recruit, Bryce Masters, played in a more familiar position at right-back.
The match kicked off about 10 minutes late due to traffic problems caused by the tragic accident at the Shoreham Airshow.
Despite the patched-up nature of Bexhill’s side, they took the game to Steyning early on and opened up a two-goal advantage inside 17 minutes thanks to a pair of strikes from Wheeler.
Bexhill bossed the first half in some of the hottest conditions Munday said he has ever played in and they started the second period in similar fashion.
Steyning - who had won one and lost one of their previous two league fixtures - pulled one back, however, through a Lewis Levoi penalty after George Aston was penalised for handball.
The hosts were visibly lifted by the goal and an equaliser soon followed as substitute Rob Clark scored with a fine strike from the edge of the box.
At that point Steyning probably thought they would go on and win the game, but being pegged back seemed to be the catalyst for Bexhill to find their form again.
Munday felt Bexhill were the only team in it thereafter and they went back in front in the 83rd minute. Barden produced a fantastic finish at the far post after good work from Andy Garman on the right.
With time running out, Phipps lost his marker and knocked the ball home for his second goal in successive games - a fitting reward for his relentless workrate.
Bexhill: Cooper; Masters, G. Aston, Elliott-Noye, Ottley; Garman, Munday, Tudor (Andrews), Barden; Phipps, Wheeler.
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