Ryan Light said he couldn’t have asked any more of his Bexhill United footballers after a valiant display in defeat on Saturday.
The Pirates were edged out 1-0 away to high-riding Mile Oak in Macron Store Southern Combination Football League Division One after conceding 10 minutes from time, but gave their all in a much-improved display.
Joint manager Light said: “We were still disappointed in the manner the defeat came in the end, but it was much more positive. You can’t ask more than what our players gave us.
“I think we showed we’ve not become a bad side overnight. We showed really good qualities, the biggest of them being our battling qualities.”
Bexhill tried a new, slightly braver 3-4-3 formation to start with, and with Mile Oak playing three up-front, it led to an open and entertaining first half with play switching from one end to the other.
The very muddy pitch probably added to the spectacle and Bexhill battled extremely well in a whole-hearted affair.
Mile Oak had a few efforts which sailed over the crossbar, but probably the best chance of the opening 45 minutes fell to Bexhill.
Drew Greenall half rounded the goalkeeper only for a home defender to get back and clear his shot as it bobbled towards goal.
Bexhill switched to a more familiar 4-4-1-1 system at half time as Light didn’t believe the wing backs would be able to sustain the intensity on such a heavy surface.
The second period was almost all Mile Oak and Bexhill were pinned back for long spells, rarely making inroads into their attacking third.
But it was probably the best they’ve defended all season, with centre-halves Ashley Kidman and Craig McFarlane phenomenal in winning just about everything, and Connor Robertson also in fine form.
Despite spending so much time on the back foot, Bexhill did have the ball in Mile Oak’s net with the game still goalless. Although the linesman raised his flag, the referee gave the goal - or at least it seemed.
But with Bexhill having returned to their half for the kick-off, the referee belatedly decided to consult his assistant and duly awarded a free kick to Mile Oak for offside.
Mile Oak then rattled Bexhill’s crossbar with a cracking strike from 25 yards and the visitors wondered if it might just be their day.
Bexhill continued to defend well and Mile Oak struggled to get in behind them, but the hosts’ pressure eventually paid off with the only goal in the 81st minute.
Dan Rose, who was excellent in the Bexhill goal, spilled a cross under pressure and after a bout of pinball in the box, Enzo Benn toe-poked the ball through a tiny gap into the net, sparking jubilant scenes among the home players and flooring a Bexhill side which had given everything.
Bexhill: Rose; Robertson, Kidman, McFarlane; Gouet (Shelton), Giles (Lopez), Holden, Ottley; Cuddington, Greenall, Wheeler.
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