Saturday, 4 April 2015

Willingdon Athletic 2 v 2 Peacehaven United

Saturday 3rd April 2015
Mid Sussex League Premier Division
Huggetts Lane, Willingdon
Admission and Programme: None
Attendance: 8 (head count)
Match Rating: 4

After a fairly long distance hop to Folkestone, and a long double hop to Hampshire most likely on Easter Monday, today I decided to settle for a closer to home venue, to visit a ground on the outskirts of Eastbourne. It would also be an opportunity to take in the second half of Eastbourne Town's Sussex County League Division One fixture afterwards.

The Huggetts Lane recreation ground is a rather long 45 minute walk from the nearest train station, Hampden Park, and is a fairly typical recreation ground setting, with no spectator facilities. The ground is shared with the local cricket club and so is a fairly large expanse, and a brick building housing the changing rooms also offers an indoor viewing area, located behind one of the goals. Whilst residential housing around three sides of the ground offers a rather bland backdrop, grassy hills of the South Downs close behind one length does give an attractive, rural background.

This fixture promised to be an interesting one, with both teams having plenty to play for at the top of the table. Peacehaven lead the division by seven points, with 43 points from 19 games but second placed Cuckfield Rangers have four games in hand, with just two games left for Peacehaven after today. Whilst the title is not mathematically impossible for Willingdon Athletic certainly have a runners up spot to play for. They went into this game in fourth place, with 32 points from 17 games, and are four points behind Cuckfield Rangers, although having played two games more. But if they were to win today and their two games in hand over Peacehaven, Willingdon would be just two points behind today's visitors. When the two teams met in January in the reverse fixture, the home team won 2-1.

On a chilly and very overcast afternoon, the game was delayed by a couple of minutes, when some dog mess was discovered just as the referee was about to blow his whistle, but then on 7 minutes, the home side took the lead. A ball towards the outer right corner of the penalty area found a Willingdon player, which drew the keeper out into no mans land, and the ball was lobbed over him goalwards, and the ball was stabbed the ball home from close range. Indeed, Willingdon started much the brighter and created a couple of chances, so it was something of a surprise when Peacehaven for back on level terms on 19 minutes, thanks to a superb free kick from 22 yards which hit the inside of the far post and went into the net. They had a great chance to go into the lead a couple of minutes later when a free kick was dropped by the keeper, but a Willingdon  defender just managed to get to the ball first to hack it to safety. Willingdon had the better of the first half and the more goalscoring chances, and so they may have been slightly disappointed to go in just on level terms at half time.

Peacehaven came more into the game in the second half, and amongst their good goalscoring chances was when a defender sliced uncontrollably over his own bar before they hit the woodwork. Willingdon still looked dangerous though, and after they squandered a one-one-one opportunity, with the striker hitting his shot against the keeper, they did retake the lead on 68 minutes. The Peacehaven keeper dropped a fairly gentle cross, and after the Willingdon forwards seemed to take long in getting a shot in, eventually the ball was passed back to the penalty spot, and the ball was driven in low through the centre of the goal. Peacehaven drew level for the second time though on 79 minutes with a very avoidable goal from Willingdon's point of view. A couple of their defenders and goalkeeper got in a right tangle deep inside their own area, and they were punished for failing to clear the ball when it was poked home. Both sides looked capable of scoring a winner in the remaining minutes, but it was not to be, and a point apiece was probably about right for a game that was full of attacking endeavour and one that either side could have won.

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