Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Old Hastonians 1 v 2 Eastbourne Rangers

Monday 30th March 2015
Wisden Sports Challenge Cup Final
The Polegrove, Bexhill-on-Sea
Admission and Programme: £3.00
Attendance: 100 (estimate)
Match Rating: 3

This evening I headed to the Polegrove for the second time this season, to take in the second of this season's East Sussex League cup finals which, on league status alone, would be a higher standard than last Monday's final at Little Common.

This game was the Cup Final for teams in Divisions One and Two of the East Sussex League, and therefore it was quite a surprise, as well as a considerable achievement, that tonight's teams currently both ply their trade in Division Two. They both look destined for Division One next season though, with Eastbourne Rangers top of the table with 39 points, having won 13 of their 15 league games and needing just a point to secure the title. Old Hastonians are in second place, with 26 points from 12 league games, although being only four points ahead of third placed JC Tackleway having played two games more, could still be pipped to the runners up spot. In the league, Eastbourne won 0-4 at Old Hastonians, who were unable to raise a side for the reverse fixture in February. To reach tonight's final, Old Hastonians were drawn away in every round, winning 4-6 at Crowhurst, 2-3 at JC Tackleway, 2-4 at Ticehurst and 1-2 at Wadhurst United. By contrast, Eastbourne Rangers have been drawn at home in every round, winning 9-0 against Sandhurst, 5-2 against Wittersham and 4-0 against Bexhill AAC. Similar to last week's cup final, a perfectly adequate programme was produced for this evening's game.

On a horrible evening for football, with squally misty rain almost constant throughout, this was unsurprisingly an even game, with Eastbourne looking the more likely to score during the first half, which they duly did on 39 minutes. After the Old Hastonians' keeper pulled off a terrific reflex save to keep out a bullet header from a corner, from the resultant corner, the keeper made an unconvincing punch out, the ball was headed back towards goal and Connor Sullivan managed to deflect the ball through a crowd of players and into the net.

Into the second half, and gradually Old Hastonians assumed the ascendancy, forcing a couple of good saves before what, one sensed, would be the game changing moment, when Old Hastonians were awarded a penalty after a deliberate handball by Lee Chapman, for which he was shown a straight red card. Tom Cusden placed his penalty into the bottom right corner, and after Eastbourne Rangers appeared to be coasting towards lifting the cup, suddenly the momentum very much swayed towards Old Hastonians, and they had a couple of chances to take the lead. As the 90 minute mark came and went, extra-time loomed large, but then out of nothing, in the second minute of added on time, Eastbourne Rangers won the cup with an absolute screamer by Luke Barber. Running onto the ball, his shot from 25 yards went over the keeper and into the roof of the net, to cue wild celebrations amongst the players, coaching staff and their vocal fans, as the Old Hastonian players were crestfallen. The referee blew his whistle soon after, and it was the Eastbourne Rangers fans who lifted the cup shortly afterwards. It was hard not to feel some sympathy for Old Hastonians, but credit to Eastbourne Rangers, who overcame going down to ten men and who could easily have caved in in the foul weather conditions as Old Hastonians became increasingly dominant.

No comments: