Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Hollington United 2 v 1 Rock a Nore

East Sussex League Premier Division
Gibbons Memorial Field, Hollington
Admission and programme: None
Attendance: 69 (head count)
Match Rating: 3

In an ideal world I would have wanted to have headed to Southampton today to take in the FA Vase Semi-Final between Sholing and Eastbourne United. However, being in the process of moving home, I decided to stay local and take in two matches in the East Sussex League, enabled with this game kicking off at 1.30 and another, at nearby Ninfield, kicking off at 3.30.

There have been no changes to the ground since my last visit almost a year ago, which is comfortably the best in the East Sussex League. Whilst every other venue in the division is not even roped off, here they pitch is railed off and there is a decent clubhouse for spectators with a good range of refreshments, with a barbecue outside selling hot food.

Traditionally one of the strongest teams in the East Sussex League, this season is proving no different for Hollington, currently in second place, just a point behind leaders Iden but with four games in hand, winning nine of their ten league games so far, with a 4-4 draw away at Ninfield in September being the only time they have dropped points. Fellow Hastings club Rock a Nore went into this game in fourth place in the nine team division, with eighteen points from thirteen games, winning five and drawing three. When the two teams met in early September, Hollington claimed a 1-3 away win.

On a bright and sunny day, but with a slightly chilly gusty wind present, the match started quite evenly, although Hollington had the first good chance on 6 minutes when a free kick was headed just over the bar. On 15 minutes they did take the lead, when a low cross from the right was struck first time low into the net by Reece Johnson. On 22 minutes, a long gentle ball forward by Rock a More was fumbled onto the post by the keeper and the lurking striker could not quite get to the ball to poke it home. Barely a minute later though and the visitors did get back on level terms. A high diagonal ball was played into the box, and Stuart Holden craned his neck excellently to head the ball over his shoulder, past the keeper and into the net. On 36 minutes, the Rock a Nore keeper came to the edge of his area to claim a long ball but he couldn't hold on to it and as the ball spilled away, the Hollington striker unable to gain possession of the ball. Amazement followed all round when the referee awarded a penalty which no-one appealed for but presumably was awarded for the keeper impeding the striker in attempting to regain possession. The penalty was converted into the bottom right corner by Glenn Woodhurst to put Hollington back into the lead, which they held onto at the interval.

Into the second half and on 51 minutes, a vicious shot on the turn forced a fabulous reflex tip over the bar from the visiting keeper, but four minutes later, he was powerless to stop Hollington opening up a two goal lead. A ball over the top sprung the offside trap and eventually the ball was crossed from the left and fell at the feet of the division's top scorer Shane Ryan at the edge of the area, and he took his time before placing his shot into the top right hand corner of the net. Rock a Nore's task was to get tougher on 57 minutes when they had a player sent off, yet another rather baffling decision by an increasingly erratic referee, apparently for kicking out at a Hollington player. With that the game was all but decided as the home team dominated the rest of the match, and on 83 minutes it appeared that they extended their lead further when a low long range free kick was juggled by the keeper and the ball spun back towards goal and the striker bundled the ball into the net from a yard or two, but the goal was ruled out, apparently for handball. It seemed another odd decision, but it didn't really matter as Hollington claimed the three points to remain red hot favourites to win the league.

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