A wonder goal sent Bexhill United Football Club to a narrow defeat away to table-topping opposition on Bank Holiday Monday.
After back-to-back 7-1 wins, the Pirates were edged out 1-0 by a strong AFC Varndeanians side which has won its opening five Southern Combination League Division One matches.
Bexhill manager Ryan Light said: “The very minimum we should’ve come away with was a draw. I think a draw would’ve been a fair result. It was a wonder goal that separated the two teams on the day.”
Although without injured pair Gordon Cuddington and Danny Leach, Bexhill made what Light described as their best ever start to a match. Bexhill pinned Varndeanians in for the first five minutes and the hosts struggled to get the ball off them.
See also: * Bexhill win 7-1 for second game in a row
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But the home side grabbed what proved to be the winner after 15 minutes. Varndeanians played a quick free kick to Joe Keehan, who turned and absolutely smashed a shot from 30 yards which struck the inside of the post and flew into the roof of the net.
“It was a goal worthy of winning any match at any level,” said Light.
After the goal Bexhill didn’t hit the same level as they had early on and the rest of the first half was very even and quite bitty, with the referee blowing up for little fouls. Bexhill also lost Liam Foster, who twisted his ankle on the Withdean Stadium pitch.
Varndeanians looked set to double their lead when their forward went through and tried to square for a team-mate, but Bexhill goalkeeper Dan Rose came out well to smother at the player’s feet.
Light felt Bexhill were playing the better football, but Varndeanians were far more physical and were dominant in the air.
Bexhill’s manager therefore brought on Zack McEniry at half time and was well pleased with the way his team performed during the second period.
Neither side really created much in the way of clearcut chances after the break, but Bexhill passed the ball well and seemed to win virtually every second ball against a Varndeanians outfit packed with higher level experience.
“The second half performance was phenomenal,” added Light. “We were getting outjumped and outmuscled in the first half, but we did the same to them in the second half.
“We kept driving at them and I don’t think they quite knew what hit them second half. I couldn’t fault the effort and endeavour, and I was really proud of the performance second half.”
Bexhill: Rose; Rea, McGuigan, McFarlane, Lopez; Holden, Foster (S. Bunn), J. Bunn; Shonk, Giles (McEniry), McLean (Harley).
Despite recording two 7-1 victories, Bexhill have won two and lost two of their opening four matches, all of which have been away from home.
The Pirates lie eighth in the early league table, albeit with a game in hand on four of the teams above them.
“I’m a great believer it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish in a nine-month season,” said Light.
“I’m not at all worried. I think I would’ve liked to have nine points on the board rather than six, but I’ve seen the way we’ve played and the only game we’ve not performed in is the first one - the others I’ve been perfectly happy. I’m really happy with the squad.”
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