Tuesday, 22 April 2014

East Preston 3 v 2 Littlehampton Town

Monday 21st April 2014
Sussex County League Division One
The Lashmar, Angmering
Admission: £6.00
Programme: £1.00
Attendance: 96
Match Rating: 4

For today's Easter Monday groundhopping adventures, I headed for a south coast double header, kicking off with this very attractive looking game, a local derby between the top two teams in the Sussex County League.

The Lashmar is about a 15 minute walk from Angmering rail station and is a moderately attractive venue, lined on three sides by fir trees, giving the ground a nice compact feel to it. Facilities are somewhat limited here at present - hence they will be playing Sussex League football again next season. As one enters through ground, a covered walkway surrounds the corner flag, whilst to the other side of the entrance is a quite a long modern metallic all-seater stand. Along this length and behind both goals is hard standing, whilst the remaining length is marked "no entry" although a handful of people stood along the grass length anyway. A couple of new wooden sheds housing turnstiles are in place, as is a wooden hut presumably to sell programmes from, whilst several areas of excavation work indicates plenty of work is going on to get the Lashmar up to Isthmian League standard. The programme was rather disappointing, not as it was understandably a double issue with Easter Saturday's game but that it was very basic in its information, with 16 pages of sketchy and often outdated club information inside am advertising shell.

East Preston have been a class apart in this division all season and are not only guaranteed to be this season's champions, but by at least ten points. They have gained 90 points from their 36 games, losing just two league games all season, both of those coming within the last month. Littlehampton went into this game in second place, with 74 points from 36 games and are guaranteed to finish at least third but are just a point above third placed East Grinstead Town, who they beat 3-0 on Saturday. Today's two teams have met twice already this season, both games in the last month. The reverse of today's league game finished goalless, whilst in the league Cup semi final, East Preston won 2-1 on neutral territory. Unfortunately, neither of today's sides will be promoted this season due to ground issues.

On a warm, humid morning, after a competitive opening, it was Littlehampton who opened the scoring on 7 minutes. A shot was deflected into the path of Ben Gray, who calmly slotted low past the keeper. East Preston got back on level terms on 22 minutes with a free kick drilled into the top left corner from 25 yards by Darren Boswell. They almost went ahead on 33 minutes, the Littlehampton keeper doing well to tip the ball over the bar. As the half wore on, Littlehampton good play faded for more agricultural challenges, and with that the impetus switched to East Preston, and they took the lead on the stroke of half time. The ball deflected into the path of Evan Archibald who lashed the ball inside the far post to give the hosts a half time lead.

Into the second half and chances were at a premium for the first half hour, but the game exploded back into life on 71 minutes when Jason Jarvis reacted badly to a foul and was shown a yellow card. He seemed to lose his cool as he mouthed off to anyone who would listen, before being sensibly substituted. However, as he smashed a ball against an advertising hoarding, the referee sent Jarvis off, although having been already substituted at that point, Littlehampton retained their full compliment of players. On 87 minutes came a rather bizarre incident as the East Preston keeper came out to catch a long ball forward. The Littlehampton striker went down in the challenge but seemingly with minimal contact having been made and the officials showed little interest in taking any action. Eventually the referee went over to his linesman and after a long discussion, a penalty was awarded, for the keeper kicking out at the striker as he caught the ball. Bizarrely, the referee showed a yellow card, although this was quite symbolic of a very erratic and inconsistent performance by the official all game. The penalty was smashed down the middle by Mitchell Hand to level the scores. Just as it seemed that Littlehampton would hold on for what might have been a priceless point in their fight for the runners-up spot, East Preston went back into the lead in the first minute of stoppage time. The ball was laid off in the penalty area, and Joe Shepley drilled the ball in off the post. They held on quite comfortably for the considerable remainder of stoppage time, and it was a victory they deserved for the way they stuck to playing good football throughout, even when Littlehampton made some crude and cynical challenges.

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