Peacehaven 2 Walton & Hersham 2: Saunders’ sides always keep going until the end – but then we already knew that

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Below is an extended match report from MICHAEL BURNAGE of Peacehaven’s first ever game in the Ryman League on Saturday, where the Tye bounced back from a late freak goal scored by visitors Walton & Hersham to earn a deserved point in a 2-2 draw. Final score (and goalscorers/goal times): Peacehaven 2 (Joe Dryer 37, Charlie Walker 88) Walton & Hersham 2 (Andre Scarlett 45, Michael Blount 86)

Not since the days of Alan Pook and Biz Russell in the 1990s has there been so much optimism about a new season at Peacehaven’s Piddinghoe Avenue Sports Park, but is it justified?

On the solid showing of The Tye on Saturday, in their first home match against Walton & Hersham, in the much stronger Ryman League South Division, there does seem to be genuine grounds for the positive vibe.

One has to remember that this is virgin territory for the 90-year-old club, after their runaway championship success last year in the Sussex County League.

Those behind the current decision making are clearly ambitious with the investment in the new ground improvements, new team sponsors in South Coast Taxis and what seemed at times a whole new team.

To be precise eight of the starting XI named by manager Shaun Saunders were playing their first league match in the black and white stripes.

As with all new teams it will take time for the players to bed in and to develop the mutual understandings that only really come with playing time on the pitch. The early signs from Saturday were that for the most part the team is gelling well.

After a good pre-season the club was confident of a good start with manager Saunders commenting,

“Taking the step up to the Ryman will be hard, but we have recruited well in the close season and so hopefully we’ll be OK”

From the kick off, Tye, were quick out of the blocks. Their first chance came as early as the second minute when the visiting keeper saved well at his feet.

Walton took advantage of a slip in the 15th minute that saw Turl race away down the right, and let loose a screamer that almost exposed Tye’s offside trap. Luckily for the home side the ball missed the top corner by inches and went for a goal kick.

The 22nd minute saw another mix-up in the Tye defence that had the ball bounce worryingly over the debutant home keeper Anthony Di Bernado. From the resulting goal kick, a late tackle by Walton’s McLeod saw the first booking of the afternoon. Haven would have preferred to have played the advantage but were instantly pulled back.

The very pacey frontman Awofisan from the visitors clattered into Di Bernado and was lucky not to be cautioned himself. Clearly the pain he felt from the collision was enough punishment in the eyes of referee Shaun Ferrer

In the 34th minute Peacehaven finally got their reward for their endeavour. A free kick awarded just outside the box was floated into the area. A brief period of sloppy play saw Joe Dryer beat an away defender to force the ball over the line.

Walton were now clearly becoming frustrated with the referee, feeling his decisions were favouring the home side. A terrible tackle from Juan Onieve for the visitors was again not punished by the official, who preferred instead to ‘have a word’ with the culprit.

Haven should have doubled their lead on 39 minutes when another free kick from the edge of the box was missed by the incoming players. Cries of ‘handball’ went up as the crowd felt the ball had been handled by defender Lomas, but nothing was given.

Disaster struck for Tye just before half time when, from a home attack, Walton sent a quick ball downfield to the lively Andre Scarlett who pounced to equalise.

From the restart things seemed a little subdued within the home team. For a while the classic sucker punch of a goal before the break looked to have shaken their confidence a little.

A quick ball into the away box saw another debutant, Tom Lawley, flattened but the incident waved away by the referee. Lawley was slow to get up and required the medical attention of physio Mike Wickham.

The next 10 minutes saw some typically combative play between the two teams that resulted in bookings for Lloyd Cotton, Craig Richards and Dryer (all Tye). For a while it looked like the ill-discipline of the home side may cost them the game.

Walton were much improved in the second half, with goalscorer Scarlett in particular fast becoming their best player with several nice touches and pacey runs at the defence.

On 71 minutes, the away team changed things up a little, taking off the tall Awofisan who had become ineffective against the Tye defence, and putting on the diminutive but incredibly fast Ben Hammond.

Twice the replacement went close, with runs down the right flank only for his delicate crosses not to be met by his team-mates.

On 83 minutes the home defence seemed to go missing as they allowed giant Greg Ngeno to somehow sneak behind them from a free kick. In acres of space, when it would have been easier to score, Ngeno headed wide, much to the relief of the home crowd.

The Tye bench were becoming agitated with the foothold in the game taken by Walton. Saunders took off Karl Akehurst, replacing him with big Dan McLaughlin to add a bit of steel to the middle of the park.

Instead of pushing on, 86 minutes saw Peacehaven fall victim to the notorious weather at the Sports Park. An extremely speculative ‘cross-cum-shot’ from fully 35 yards, was launched goalwards by Walton right back Michael Blount.

The ball was caught on a brief gust of wind and sailed over the head of the despairing Di Bernado in the Haven goal.

The crowd were silent as the away team understandably congratulated themselves in an over the top, exuberant manner.

A keeper used to the weird and unnatural habits of the weather conditions at Piddinghoe Avenue would have been alert to this. For Di Bernado that knowledge and experience will come very soon.

One thing we learnt from the successful 2012/13 season was that Saunders’ teams are always professional in that they play for the whole 90 minutes. And in the 88th minute, whilst Walton were still patting themselves on the back, Charlie Walker snuck in at the back post to equalise and send the home crowd delirious.

Things could and maybe should have got even better for Peacehaven, when with virtually the last kick of the game, left back Dryer threw into the box a firm cross, only for Craig Richards to fail to connect.

With the final whistle blowing, manager Saunders was delighted with his club’s first ever point in the Ryman League. “We were disappointed to concede the two goals, especially the freak second,” he said.

“But we did well not to give up and in the end I thought we were good value for the draw.”

A sentiment that we would echo.

Peacehaven will be hoping to build on their good start with their next home game at the Sports Park on Wednesday, August 21 against another team from the capital Tooting & Mitcham. Kick-off is at 7.45pm.

Before that the Mapgies have two away games: against Sussex rivals Worthing tonight (Tuesday, August 13, 7.45) and on Saturday (August 17) at Leatherhead (3pm).

MAGPIES: Di Bernardo, Metcalf, Dryer, Akehurst (McLaughlin 84), A Jones, Richards, Brotherton, Cotton, Walker, J. Jones, Lawley.

Subs not used: Burton, McCreadie, Lorraine, C Jones. Scorers: Dryer (35’), Walker (88’).

Cautions: Lawley, dissent; Cotton, foul; Brotherton, foul; Dryer, foul.

SWANS: Tim Roberts, Michael Blount, John Clark, Chris Grayland, Greg Ngeno, Mark McLeod, André Scarlett, James McShane, Will Turl, Juan Onieva, James Awofisan (Ben Hammond 69).

Subs not used: Ross Nunn, Andy Lomas, Warren Gladdy, Steve Betancourt.

Scorers: Scarlett (45’), Blount (86’).

Caution: McLeod, foul (24’).