Bexhill United Football Club suffered an agonising late defeat at home to fellow high-flyers Alfold tonight (Tuesday).
The Pirates conceded a 90th minute goal to be edged out 1-0 in a hotly-contested and good quality affair between two of Southern Combination League Division One’s top three.
On a chilly but still night at The Polegrove, Alfold shrugged off their long midweek journey by starting quickly and were the better side during the opening quarter-of-an-hour.
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They almost took the lead inside 35 seconds. Johden De Meyer played a delightful one-two with Joao Andrade and was in on goal, but Bexhill goalkeeper Dan Rose got a hand to his shot and defender Craig McFarlane cleared to safety.
Rose then saved De Meyer’s angled shot with his feet after the forward had held off Bexhill defender Lewis McGuigan.
Bexhill gradually started to get into the game. Following a strong tackle by Jamie Bunn in the Alfold box, the ball broke to Jack McLean, who struck a low shot into the side-netting.
Sammy Bunn’s sweetly-struck effort from just outside the area having been cleverly picked out by his brother at a corner was fingertipped over the crossbar by away goalkeeper Luis Correia.
Bexhill’s best chance of the opening period came on the half-hour mark. Drew Greenall missed the target having been sent clear through the inside left channel by a lovely defence-splitting pass from Jamie Bunn.
Andrade headed over from Zach Gray’s left wing cross having moments earlier had a shot on the turn blocked by Bexhill left-back Nathan Lopez, while Kyle Holden fired wide from outside the box at the other end seconds before the break.
Playing at a high tempo, Bexhill were firmly on the front foot at the start of the second period, albeit without really turning their possession and territory into clearcut opportunities against an Alfold team which has conceded less than a goal per game in the league this season.
Sam Lemon’s angled strike was saved by Rose moments before the skilful McLean, who again carried Bexhill’s greatest attacking threat, surged into the Alfold box and saw his low shot well stopped.
Andrade drove a free kick just over as Alfold started to come back into things, while Lopez acrobatically volleyed over following Sammy Bunn’s long throw from the left.
It was beginning to look as though the meeting of the division’s two highest scoring teams would end goalless, although if either side was going to force a winner, Bexhill appeared the more likely.
Jack Shonk’s angled drive deflected off target and the same player volleyed wide with his left foot, while Holden couldn’t direct his first-time effort on target from McLean’s low cross. At the other end, Rose blocked De Meyer’s cross-shot with his feet.
Alfold landed the decisive blow seconds before the end of normal time. The referee awarded a free kick to Alfold in front of the dugouts even though his assistant had flagged for a Bexhill throw. The ball was pumped into the box, De Meyer won a knock down at the far post and Andrade poked past Rose, sparking jubilant celebrations among the Alfold players.
Things then got heated between the two benches, with Bexhill angered by what they saw as an Alfold man celebrating in their technical area, and Bexhill manager Ryan Light was sent from the dugout.
Bexhill frantically went in search of an equaliser during eight minutes of added time and launched several balls into Alfold’s box. McLean shot wide with his left foot from one of them, but Alfold held on to complete their second 1-0 win over Bexhill this season.
Bexhill: Rose; Rea, McGuigan, McFarlane, Lopez; Holden, J. Bunn, S. Bunn (Foster 76); Shonk, Greenall (Cuddington 83), McLean. Subs not used: Robertson, Ottley, Gouet.
Southern Combination League Division One top half standings (played-points): 1 Steyning Town 19-47 (+31 goal difference), 2 Alfold 18-44 (+36), 3 BEXHILL UNITED 19-43 (+39), 4 AFC Varndeanians 18-38 (+26), 5 Selsey 19-34 (+18), 6 Hailsham Town 19-29 (+7), 7 Seaford Town 18-28 (-1), 8 Littlehampton Town 18-26 (+1), 9 Wick 18-25 (-6).