Battle seal second place with 9-1 victory
Battle Baptists again clinched the runners-up spot in the East Sussex Football League Premier Division with a crushing 9-1 victory at home to Robertsbridge United.
The Baptists, who also came second last year and the previous season, finished above Bexhill Town on goal difference and three points behind champions Sidley United.
Battle made several changes to the side which lost the chance to win the title when losing to Sedlescombe Rangers a fortnight previously. Harry Gooch, Dale Vinall, Joe Brister and Steve McGowan returned to the starting line-up, and there was a first start for Shaun Utting in goal.
See also: * Hollington United secure runners-up spot by winning last home game* Little Common finish season with fourth straight win* Hastings United to enjoy home advantage in play-off semi-final* Brilliant Battle reach national cup finalBattle opened the scoring on four minutes when a McGowan throw was flicked into the net by Adam Staplehurst for his 12th goal of the season.
Four minutes later it was 2-0. Ian Rafati played in McGowan, who coolly placed the ball past the Robertsbridge goalkeeper.
Battle continued to press and made it 3-0 on 14 minutes when Brister squared for Dean Boyd to score his first of the game.
A period of calmness followed for the next 15 minutes before Battle made it 4-0 on the half-hour mark. A Vinall free kick was cushioned down into the path of Boyd, who scored his second.
Battle continued to dominate the ball and played some fantastic football, with goalkeeper Utting a mere spectator.
The second half started in the same fashion with Battle controlling the ball. They went 5-0 up on 48 minutes when good pressing by Vinall led to McGowan finding the net. Robertsbridge ran through and Curtis Coombes slotted into the net to make it 5-1 on the hour.
Battle managed to get back into gear and made it 6-1 on 67 minutes when Brister got on the end of a Boyd pass to score a deserved goal. Another Vinall assist, this time for Josh Pickering, made it 7-1 in the 71st minute.
Battle then missed several chances to add to the score, but Pickering did find the net on 87 and 91 minutes to complete a 20-minute hat-trick.
Battle manager Kyle Mann said: “I can’t deny we are a little bit gutted to not be walking away today as league winners, but the table doesn’t lie. At times we just haven’t been good or consistent enough.
“We have used way too many players this year, but I am proud of those who have slotted in for one game here and there, and some who have come through the teams this year and forced their way into the first team.
“Today was about getting a reaction and seeing who wants to fight for a squad spot for the (National Christian Cup) final in a few weeks.
“Several players really stepped up today, Joe Brister and Dale Vinall stood out from the pack with brilliant performances and rightly deserved their man of the match awards.”
Battle will face St Sebastians, from Liverpool, in the National Christian Cup final at The Valley, home of Charlton Athletic FC, on Saturday May 18.
Mann added: “The NCC final is three weeks away and will be a very tough game. It’s a massive opportunity for us to claim some much-deserved silverware.
“We have a training game and two training sessions before the match, and with just two weeks until I need to select the squad, we have 26 players pushing to make it. I’m sure everyone will give it their all. I really can’t wait to lead the team out, it will be a proud moment.”