Thursday, 2 October 2014

Little Common 1 v 2 Mile Oak

Tuesday 30th September 2014
RUR Charity Cup Second Round
Recreation Ground, Little Common
Admission including Programme: £4.00
Attendance: 36
Match Rating: 2

For this week's midweek action, I made my second visit of the season to the outskirts of Bexhill-on-Sea, for an interesting looking cup match between two of the stronger teams in the Sussex County League Division Two.

Both teams have had good starts to their league season, with Little Common, in fourth place, winning five and losing two of their eight games so far, with Mile Oak having an almost identical record, apart from drawing their extra game played and were in third place. Little Common have had a fabulous September, winning all six of their league and cup games, all at home. Mile Oak also came into the game in good form, winning three and drawing the other of their four games so far. Unlike Little Common, Mile Oak had to play a match in the First Round of this competition, comfortably dispatching Rustington 6-0 at home a fortnight ago.

On a cool, moonlit evening with a very slight mist hovering over the pitch, the first half was very competitive but with the teams tending to cancel each other out, with few goalscoring chances being created in the first half hour. The first real chance fell to the visitors on 32 minutes, when a header from a cross from the right was palmed out by the keeper. A couple of minutes later and the hosts had their first good chance. After an initial shot was blocked, a follow up shot from the edge of the area flew just wide of the left hand post. Three minutes before half time and Little Common had another good chances, this time a powerful shot was parried up high in the air by the keeper and as it looped down goalwards, the keeper managed to catch the ball.

The visitors came out after the break looking more threatening, and duly took the lead on 58 minutes. Andrew McDowell intercepted a ball, strode forward and floating the ball over the keeper and into the net. Although Little Common were not playing well or coherently, they still managed to create some good chances - as they usually do. On 62 minutes, a shot from the edge of the area took a slight deflection just over the bar, whilst on 66 minutes another fierce shot from distance was well saved to the keeper's right. It increasingly seemed that Mile Oak would hold out for the narrow win, until Little Common were awarded a free kick on the edge of the area. Player-manager Russell Eldridge is one of the best dead-ball specialists in the league, and he didn't disappoint this time striking the ball into the right side of the net, with the keeper rooted to his spot on the other side. It seemed that the home side had got out of jail and were to force extra time, but just three minutes later, Mile Oak retook the lead. Following a slip by a Little Common defender, the ball was eventually crossed from the right and the ball was firmly struck into the net from the edge of the area. The hone side piled on the pressure in the final minutes, and in injury time a difficult shot on the turn inside the area was blazed over the bar. And so it was Mile Oak who progressed to the next round, to set up a home tie against Sussex Division One club Ringmer. No doubt the right team progressed, as Little Common did not play well this evening, even though they are a team that always has goals in them.

On my way to this game, I took the opportunity of taking a look at the state of The Gullivers, the former home ground of Sussex County League Division One club Sidley United. It made for sad, depressing viewing. The ground has been unused since Spring 2013, when Sidley Sports and Social Club was wound up, leaving the football club homeless and causing the club to have a one season hiatus last season, and this season are playing down in the East Sussex League Division One, at the very humble surroundings of the recreation ground in Hooe.

Unsurprisingly, the Gullivers has suffered from considerable vandalism in the past 18 months. The clubhouse in the corner of the ground has had its windows smashed in, and are now boarded up. The pitch has litter and debris, including chairs and a roller, scattered amongst the long grass, whilst in the older stand, the dugouts have been ripped apart, with more debris scattered inside, whilst the newer stand has had some of its seats ripped out or burnt. Quite surprisingly, the floodlights remain standing.

It's a sad scene indeed, with the future of the Gullivers very uncertain. It would take an awful lot of work to get the ground back in a fit state to host football, and although it seems most likely that eventually the ground will redeveloped with housing, there does remain a proviso that the ground must be used for sport, after the land was donated by a farmer in the late 1940's.

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