Monday, 15 July 2013

Saltdean United 1 v 2 Horley Town

Sunday 14th July 2013
Pre-season friendly
Hill Park, Saltdean
Admission and Programme: Nil
Attendance: 58 (head-count)
Match Rating: 4

A Sunday kick off here allowed me to revisit a ground that I had only previously visited for the last 20 minutes on a dark, damp winter's afternoon several years ago. Which was too bad, as Hill Park ranks as one of the most picturesque in the Sussex League, so I decided that a visit during the current heatwave was the perfect time to return.

Hill Park is situated in a small valley just above the village of Saltdean, which is about a 20 minute bus ride along the coast eastwards from Brighton city centre. Situated down a country lane, one enters the ground on the opposite side of a track to the clubhouse which is much more pleasant inside than it promises to be outside. Along the length opposite the clubhouse is a large grass bank which makes for an excellent place to watch the game on a warm sunny afternoon. There is also a small stand, supposedly all-seater but with about half of the seats missing. Hard standing is also available along both lengths and behind one of the goals, whilst the area behind the other goal is inaccessible to spectators. The grass valley and trees surrounding the pitch makes this a really pleasant and peaceful venue. Unsurprisingly, no programmes were issued today.

There was a double header of games today, with the first teams playing in the first game with a 1pm kick off. Saltdean United had an horrendous season last year in the Sussex League Division Two, finishing bottom with just eight points from their 34 games and they should have been relegated into intermediate football but were given a reprieve. Horley Town play in a step above, in the Premier Division of the Combined Counties League, finishing in twelfth place in the 22 team division last season.

On yet another warm, sunny afternoon - although not as warm as yesterday - this was a surprisingly entertaining and competitive game, with plenty of commitment shown and both sides creating half chances. Horley took the lead though on 21 minutes when some neat passing inside the box culminated with a low shot across the keeper finding the back of the net.

1-0 was how it stayed at half time, but seven minutes after the break, Saltdean got back on level terms when a through ball was taken in the forward's stride, who took a couple of strides before placing the ball low in the bottom right hand corner. The match could have gone either way from here as both sides had further reasonable chances, but it was Horley who scored what turned out to be the winner nine minutes from time. A quick break from the back saw the ball out on the right wing deep inside Saltdean half. The ball was played inside and the striker clipped a lovely shot over the keeper and into the net. Neither side seriously threatened to score again, but this was an excellent work out for both teams, and Saltdean in particular could draw plenty of positives out of their performance.

Saltdean United Reserves 3 v 3 Horley Town Reserves

After a short break, it was the turn of the reserve teams, in a game that was just as entertaining as the first team game. Horley took the lead on 8 minutes when a freekick was driven low into the net from just outside the box. On 19 minutes, Saltdean equalised when a cross from the right was poorly missed by the defender and the ball was struck home from the centre of the goal. On 38 minutes, Saltdean took the lead, when a cross from the right evaded several defenders before being tapped home at the far post.

Into the second half and Horley equalised with an absolute screamer, the ball being lashed into the top right hand corner from fully 25 yards. Saltdean went back into the lead on 75 minutes when a high cross from the byline was headed home from close range. Horley equalised again four minutes from time. The keeper clutched at thin air when he claimed the ball coming in from a corner, and the ball was headed home despite a defender's acrobatic attempt to clear it on the line. A high scoring draw was a fair result after an entertaining games with plenty of chances for both teams.

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