Bexhill nab last gasp leveller against high-flyers

Bexhill United full-back Ben Cornelius keeps a close eye on Wick forward Josh Irish. Pictures by Simon Newstead
Bexhill United full-back Ben Cornelius keeps a close eye on Wick forward Josh Irish. Pictures by Simon Newstead

Bexhill United Football Club scored a 93rd minute equaliser to earn a point against second-placed opposition yesterday (Saturday).

Chris Rea was the unlikely hero, scoring his first goal since joining the Pirates in the summer to give Bexhill a 1-1 draw at home to Macron Store Southern Combination League Division One promotion hopefuls Wick.

It was a dramatic end to a good contest between Bexhill, who had scoring 11 goals and conceded none in their previous two games, and a Wick side which had won 11 and drawn one of its previous 13 league matches this season.

One of Bexhill’s three new signings, Liam Foster, made the starting XI, while the other two, Jack McLean and Zack McEniry, were among the substitutes. George Legg deputised for Dan Rose in the Bexhill goal.

Both sides struck the crossbar and fashioned several other opportunities during a goalless but entertaining first half at The Polegrove.

Corey Wheeler’s header from a Wayne Giles cross was tipped over by Wick goalkeeper Keelan Belcher. Minutes later at the other end, Legg beat out a Kieron Playle-Howard shot.

Bexhill United debutant Liam Foster in possession.

Bexhill United debutant Liam Foster in possession.

Wick went close to opening the scoring when Josh Irish cleverly flicked the ball past Legg, but Bexhill full-back Ben Cornelius scrambled back quickly to clear off the line. Playle-Howard’s shot was then parried by Legg, who bravely dived at the feet of Rob Wimble as he tried to follow up.

Bexhill were first to rattle the woodwork as Wheeler’s volley following a Giles corner from the left crashed against the crossbar. Curtis Beale couldn’t direct his header on target from the rebound.

Foster saw a left-foot shot pushed behind for a corner, from which central defender Lewis McGuigan headed just wide.

Then it was Wick’s turn to strike the frame of the goal. Cornelius couldn’t cut out Alex Kew’s cross from the away right and Irish struck the crossbar from around eight yards.

Bexhill United scorer Chris Rea blocks the path of a Wick opponent.

Bexhill United scorer Chris Rea blocks the path of a Wick opponent.

Wick made the better start to the second period and within 90 seconds of the resumption, Bexhill needed another goal-line clearance by Cornelius, this time from Playle-Howard’s powerful header at a corner, to keep them on level terms.

Irish had a shot tipped over by Legg before Wick broke the deadlock in the 54th minute. Legg spilled a free kick into Bexhill’s box and Dan Cox turned the ball into the roof of the net from close range.

Bexhill introduced McEniry and McLean in a double substitution on the hour, and although McLean seemingly beat opponents for fun with some delightful trickery, the home side was now struggling to carve out chances.

Irish had a couple of shots saved by Legg and it looked as though Wick would travel back west with all three points, but Bexhill conjured up an equaliser right at the death.

Wayne Giles holds off a Wick defender.

Wayne Giles holds off a Wick defender.

McLean skipped past the same defender twice to win a corner on the right. The resulting delivery made its way through to Rea in space in the left-hand side of the area and he drilled a low shot inside the near post to spark wild celebrations among the Bexhill players and management.

Bexhill: Legg, Cornelius, Ottley, McFarlane, McGuigan, Rea, Gouet (Butchers 73), Beale, Giles (McEniry 60), Foster, Wheeler (McLean 60). Subs not used: Harffey, Robinson.

Southern Combination League Division One top half (played-points): 1 LITTLE COMMON 14-37 (+43 goal difference), 2 Wick 14-35 (+33), 3 Langney Wanderers 13-31 (+29), 4 Lingfield 14-28 (+17), 5 Steyning Town 13-24 (+16), 6 Mile Oak 13-23 (+6), 7 BEXHILL UNITED 14-22 (+17), 8 Selsey 13-22 (+10), 9 Hailsham Town 12-20 (-1).