Ringmer AFC denied victory by battling Battle

Ringmer AFC were held to a frustrating 3-3 draw by Battle Town in a match that saw the lead swing both ways and plenty of chances go astray.
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With the Blues expected to beat their 11th-placed visitors, they got a sterner test than the Mid Sussex premier division table suggested as Battle defended stoutly and took advantage of the few openings they had.

As Ringmer were culpable of significant errors to let their advantage slip, however, the game would go down as another this season where they had regrets.

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Coming into the contest, manager Tommy Haddon faced the unavailability of almost half his usual side, with six changes made from the previous week’s Montgomery Cup win over Holland Sports.

Ringmer AFC and Battle Town in action | Picture by Will HugallRingmer AFC and Battle Town in action | Picture by Will Hugall
Ringmer AFC and Battle Town in action | Picture by Will Hugall

As well as returns for Jamie Blackford, Owen Brown and Rio Connelly, goalkeeper Xhemal Bako came in for Will Mizon – who had suffered a serious finger injury – and there were first starts this season for Kian Balameh and Ash Hayes.

Ringmer came into the game off mixed form in their recent matches, as well as in previous meetings with Battle, with defeats the last two times they faced their East Sussex visitors.

The visitors, despite sitting 11th in the table, also possessed the Premier Division’s top goalscorer in Glen Carrick, who had bagged 24 goals in 19 appearances this season.

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Both sides settled slowly into the contest, with neither offering much of a direct threat in the early stages as they sounded each other out.

Gradually, though, the attacking prowess of both teams did emerge, with the visitors striking the first blow.

In the 17th minute, a cross from the right found talisman Carrick, who showed trademark timing and positioning to evade marking and head past Bako in the Ringmer net.

Within five minutes, however, Ringmer struck back.

A Rhys Taylor corner cleverly targeted the near post, where Ed Easton was on hand to deliver a delicate backward header to beat the Battle goalkeeper.

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The action swung both ways straight after this early exchange, and there were some brilliant battles, particularly on the flank nearest a good crowd present, where Balameh was up against an alert Battle full-back and Owen Brown was kept busy by Battle’s number 11 too.

When Ringmer realised their best option was to target the other wing, they quickly reaped their reward.

Taylor cut inside his full-back just after the half-hour mark and drove a brilliant low shot across the Battle goalkeeper, finding the bottom right corner to make it 2-1.

The Blues pushed on from there and had full control of the first half’s remaining moments, firing in free-kicks and corners, and pressing the visitors deep inside their own half.

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Battle just about survived all of these attempts, though, and with seconds remaining in the half won a key moment in the game.

As the ball worked itself to Carrick, the striker’s shot was well saved by Bako from close range but bobbled straight into the path of another man in orange, who smashed the chance into the roof of the net.

Ringmer were understandably rueful at half-time, but came out for the second half with serious intent to reclaim their lead.

That was a difficult task for much of the half, with Battle living up to their name by scrapping for every ball while the Blues continued to dictate possession.

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By the hour mark, Ringmer finally had their breakthrough as Taylor again found space and delivered a wonderful cross for Balameh to gleefully stick away his first Premier Division goal.

The Blues, sensing their opportunity had finally come to open a big lead, pushed on after the goal and committed men into the Battle half.

When a brilliant chance came from a right-wing cross and Rio Connelly blazed wide, however, the hosts took their eye off the ball for a fatal moment.

Battle immediately went up the other end and a low cross found Carrick, just ahead of Charlie Northeast, to stab home and level it up at 3-3.

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Exasperated with being pegged back again, the Blues threw caution to the wind as an unfamiliar bench were all introduced, and all were given attacking instructions.

Kyle Johnson and Junior Wezi both buzzed around the edge of the box trying to force the effort, while late sub Josh Gausden almost latched onto a couple of direct passes upfield.

The best remaining chance fell to fellow sub George Maybury as he strained every sinew to reach a cross from the right deep in added time, but he was inches short of making contact in front of an open goal.

Ringmer were left licking their wounds at full-time as a result, and though they remained second in the table, they knew it was another game where they should have got full rewards.

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Just eight league matches remain in the Blues’ season, while they also have cup action to look forward to next week.

They visit Oxted & District in the Montgomery Cup quarter-finals next Saturday (17 February), kicking off at 2pm at Bletchingley FC (RH1 4PE).

Ringmer AFC: Bako, Brown, Hayes (Maybury, 71’), Grimes, Northeast (C), Webster, Balameh (Johnson, 71’), Blackford, Easton (Gausden, 88’), Connelly (Wezi, 80’), Taylor.