Thursday, 1 May 2014

Hawkhurst United 0 v 1 Wadhurst United

Wednesday 30th April 2014
East Sussex League Division One
The Moor, Hawkhurst
Admission and programme: None
Attendance: 43 (head count)
Match Rating: 2

Of all my silly season games this spring, this is the one I most looked forward to, at a venue in my local major village when I was growing up, with the visiting team from the village I lived in, off and on, for almost 25 years until recently.

The Moor is located about a mile south of the village centre and is another example of a venue that makes silly season groundhopping so pleasurable in the early evening sunshine. There are no spectator facilities here, but there is a really pleasant rural look and feel to the place. One passes a moderately attractive brick building housing the changing rooms as one enters the playing fields, and then after a short distance the pitch is surrounded on three sides by trees of varying shapes, sizes and colours. Several park benches are placed behind one of the goals. Although Hawkhurst did issue programmes whilst they played in the Kent County League, and showed some ambition to progress up the pyramid, they do not anymore.

This evening's game would be between two clubs very much in the mix to claim the second promotion spot behind champions-elect Little Chelsea. Wadhurst went into this game in second place with 38 points from 18 games and a point tonight in their penultimate game should be sufficient to stay there. They have been in great form, losing just once - to Little Chelsea - in twelve league matches, a run which started in November with a 2-0 home victory against this evening's opponents. This run was abruptly ended last time out though when they lost 4-1 at JC Tackleway, which at the time appeared to have been a fatal blow to their promotion chances, only for JC Tackleway to then surprisingly lose to lowly Crowhurst, to put Wadhurst back in pole position for the promotion spot. Hawkhurst were in fourth place in the division, six points behind Wadhurst but with a game in hand, however they have an inferior goal difference of 11 compared with Wadhurst. They have also been in very good form, unbeaten in their last eight games, winning six of them, a win including a win and a draw in a double-header against Little Chelsea.

On another pleasant evening of blue skies and warm sunshine, Hawkhurst started very strongly, doing most of the attacking without creating any real chances to score. Indeed, it was Wadhurst who had the first real chance, a terrific strike from the outer corner of the penalty area hit the crossbar, and although the rebound was tucked away into the net, the goal was ruled out for offside. On 32 minutes, a perfectly judged curling cross into the box was headed narrowly over the bar for Hawkhurst, and two minutes later, they forced an excellent point blank save from the Wadhurst keeper. On 36 minutes the visitors took the lead, definitely against the run of play when free kick was floated into the box from the half way line, and Lee Bates headed the ball past the keeper and into the net from about 8 yards. On the stroke of half time, Hawkhurst almost got an equaliser, when a cross from wide sailed over the keeper and hit the bar, and the rebound couldn't be forced home.

Wadhurst dominated the second half and always looked much more likely to double their lead than Hawkhurst to get an equaliser, although in truth it was a very competitive half that produced few goalscoring chances. In the last five minutes, Hawkhurst did manage to put some sustained pressure on the Wadhurst goal, the stand out chance a minute into added on time when an aerial diagonal ball was headed across goal, beating the keeper but just going wide of the far post. But it was not to be, and Wadhurst held on for a narrow win which guaranteed them a promotion berth, whilst Hawkhurst can still claim third place if they beat third placed JC Tackleway on Saturday.

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