Bexhill United’s footballers were unable to make it a hat-trick of wins over the new league leaders as they were beaten 4-0 at The Polegrove on Saturday.
The Pirates triumphed twice away to Saltdean United back in August, but it was a different story this time as they were sunk by four goals from Ashley Rees, including a first half hat-trick.
Bexhill joint manager Ryan Light said: “The experience they brought with them was something we’ve not come across this year, even when we’ve played teams from a higher division.
“It was a little bit men against boys experience-wise. There’s a lot of antics with that experience and we’re a little bit naive to that at the moment. We’re very honest and a bit green at times.”
Bexhill went out with the intention of sitting in, soaking up pressure and hitting Saltdean on the break. As the game got under way, though, it seemed Saltdean wanted to keep numbers back, which made Bexhill come forward and the hosts were the more attacking side early on.
At times Bexhill tried to overplay in the final third and Saltdean’s first two goals came from swift counter-attacks after Bexhill moves broke down.
The opener stemmed from Bexhill losing possession after trying to be a bit too intricate. Saltdean broke extremely quickly and five seconds later the ball was in the net after some football which belonged at a higher level than Macron Store Southern Combination League Division One.
Saltdean’s second was almost a carbon copy. This time Bexhill lost the ball centrally and in the blink of an eye it was played in to forward Andy McDowell, who had runners off of him and Rees again finished neatly.
Bexhill fell further behind to a particularly disappointing third goal. Rees punished hesitation between a Bexhill defender and returning goalkeeper Dan Rose by nipping in between the two before tapping into an empty net.
Despite playing with the wind, Bexhill didn’t really threaten at all during a first half in which they fell well below the levels they’ve previously reached.
Saltdean were in the ascendancy during the second period, but had a player sent-off for catching Nathan Lopez with an elbow, causing a split behind the Bexhill midfielder’s ear.
The visitors added a fourth goal soon afterwards, though. A cross sailed towards the far post on the wind and Rees headed in unchallenged from virtually on the goal-line.
Bexhill brought on new recruits David Pugh and Adam Sully, and played some exquisite football as they at least finished the game strongly.
They carved out a couple of very good chances, the pick of which saw Gordon Cuddington drill a powerful shot whiskers over the crossbar at the end of a move containing around 20 passes.
Bexhill: Rose; Butchers (Willis), Robertson, McFarlane, Ottley; Lopez, Holden, Giles, Cuddington, Giles (Pugh), Wheeler (Sully); Greenall.
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