The curse of the former player struck Bexhill United Football Club as it was held at home to bottom-of-the-table opposition yesterday (Saturday).
Ex-Bexhill striker David Pugh scored a brace of goals, including a 93rd minute equaliser, against his old club as Saltdean United twice came from behind to leave The Polegrove with a 2-2 draw.
In a keenly-fought and sometimes niggly Macron Store Southern Combination Football League Division One fixture containing lots of free kicks, Bexhill had earlier got off to a flying start with a goal inside three minutes.
Corey Wheeler stood up an inviting cross from near the byeline in the left-hand side of the penalty area and Gordon Cuddington scored his third goal in as many matches with a good header which went in off the underside of the crossbar.
The Pirates failed to really build on the goal, though, and the rest of the first half on a very pleasant spring afternoon was fairly even. Lee Middleton’s left-foot drive was beaten out by Bexhill goalkeeper Adam Osborne and Saltdean captain Jamie Buckett wasn’t far away with an overhead kick.
At the other end, Cuddington was just off target with another header from a Wheeler cross, Jacob Shelton’s low drive from 25 yards went narrowly wide and a Wes Peoples shot following a neat Shelton lay-off was comfortably saved.
Josh Elliott-Noye shot just wide at the end of a good move involving Shelton and Cuddington, and Peoples hooked a shot just beyond the far post after riding a couple of challenges inside the Saltdean box.
After a half time altercation involving Cuddington and Saltdean defender Matt Sellick - another former Bexhill player who was booked shortly before the break - Bexhill started the second period slowly.
Bexhill manager Marc Munday recovered well after his own mistake to deny James Morey as he bore down on goal, but then upended Pugh inside the box to concede a 55th minute penalty, which Pugh tucked away low to Osborne’s right.
The home side was almost behind a minute later, but Osborne pulled off an oustanding save when Middleton seemed certain to score from eight yards out.
Bexhill then got into their stride and were on top thereafter. Shelton came close to putting them back in front when he struck the outside of the post from the tightest of angles after Saltdean defender Joe McTiffen hooked the ball past his own goalkeeper.
Shelton later sliced wide of the near post before Saltdean goalkeeper Tom Bradford pulled off a superb save to keep out a Mark Blanche header from Craig Ottley’s corner. Bradford then repelled Wheeler’s angled effort following a delightful flick by Peoples.
Bexhill did go back in front in the 80th minute. Following a throw in awarded to Bexhill which Saltdean were convinced should have gone the other way, Wheeler delivered an excellent cross from the left and Shelton couldn’t miss with a close range header.
Luke Dando brought a save out of Bradford with his first touch after coming on as a substitute and Bexhill looked set to see the game out pretty comfortably, but Saltdean conjured up an unlikely equaliser in the nick of time. Sellick helped the ball over Bexhill’s defence and Pugh found the net with a well-controlled low side-foot volley.
Saltdean nearly won it a minute later. After Devante Davis shook off a couple of challenges on the away left, fellow substitute Jack De Leiburne was whiskers away with an angled shot which flashed across the face of goal.
Bexhill: Osborne, Tudor, Ottley, Elliott-Noye, Cruikshank, Munday, Blanche, Cuddington, Shelton, Wheeler (Dando 89), Peoples (Mole 78). Sub not used: Penney.
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