Sunday, 12 April 2015

Bexhill United 2 v 1 Westfield

Friday 10th April 2015
The Polegrove, Bexhill-on-Sea
Hastings & District FA Senior Cup Final
Admission and Programme: None
Attendance: 100 (estimate)
Match Rating: 3

This was something of a bonus game to take in, an all too rare and an unexpected opportunity to take in some Friday night football. On paper, being a senior cup final would certainly add some spice to the occasion, however the reality was a rather farcical event, when one wondered if there was really any point in playing the fixture at all.

For the second year running, this cup competition was only entered into by two clubs, the same clubs as last year, when Westfield triumphed 3-0 at Little Common's Recreation Ground. This year's fixture was only announced on Wednesday, and perhaps as a result, there was no admission money taken nor programme produced. This fixture would also be both clubs' final fixture of the season - and possibly Westfield's final game as a senior club, as they will finish in a low enough position in the league to be vulnerable to ground grading relegation, as their ground is not up to senior standard. They are fourth bottom of Sussex County League Division Two, with 29 points from 28 games. After looking contenders for promotion from the same decision, Bexhill completed their fixtures in fifth place, with 49 points from their 28 games, but will drop a place if Oakwood win either of their final two games. When the two teams met in the league, the game finished 1-1 at the Polegrove, whilst Bexhill won 0-1 at the Parish Field.

After a warm, sunny day but with warnings of high pollution levels in this part of the world resulting in experts warning against physical activities this afternoon, this was very much a game of two halves. Westfield had the better of the first, although Bexhill had the first clear chance of the match, when the ball was played low through the middle, allowing Chris Cumming-Bart to run through on goal, and although he lifted the ball over the keeper, it bounced on the top of the crossbar and over. Westfield took the lead on 18 minutes, when a free kick was curled into the box by Lawrence Brand and Sam Henham guided the ball with his head into the net. They went on to dominate the next 20 minutes, and always looked likely to double their lead, most notably on 29 minutes when a long range free kick by David Pugh came back off the top right hand corner of crossbar and post. Almost out of nothing, Bexhill got back on level terms on 39 minutes, when George Gaston fired in a free kick low into the bottom right hand corner, and the keeper didn't move - strangely so, as he had plenty of time to see it and react.

Although Westfield had the first significant chance of the second half, when a free kick by Pugh from the edge of the area was drilled and drew a reflex block save from the keeper, Bexhill were to dominate the second half, as Westfield's play became rather sloppy. On 67 minutes, Bexhill took the lead with a great goal. Andy Harman drove with the ball down the right wing from inside his own half until he reached the penalty area, checked back inside before firing in a powerful swerving shot across the keeper and into the far top corner. Erratic goalkeeping by the Westfield number one was almost punished twice with around ten minutes to go, first when a Bexhill player in his own half saw the keeper out of his area, went for the shot on goal but the keeper just managed to get back in time to block the ball, and then the keeper fumbled the ball but was fortunate that no Bexhill player could get a decisive touch until it was eventually ballooned over the bar. In the end, those near misses did not matter, as Bexhill held on quite comfortably to lift the cup on the pitch shortly after the final whistle in a very swift ceremony in which the trophy was passed to the Bexhill captain, as the Hastings FA official explained to all that no medals were produced due to the very late arrangement of the fixture.

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