Bexhill United pegged back in third versus fourth clash

Jack McLean on the ball during Bexhill United's 1-1 draw with AFC Varndeanians. Pictures by Simon Newstead
Jack McLean on the ball during Bexhill United's 1-1 draw with AFC Varndeanians. Pictures by Simon Newstead

Bexhill United Football Club picked up its first point against top four opposition this season, but was denied the victory it craved yesterday (Saturday).

The Pirates took a second half lead through Nathan Lopez in a Southern Combination League Division One third versus fourth encounter at home to AFC Varndeanians only to concede 10 minutes later and have to settle for a 1-1 draw.

Bexhill were without Chris Rea so Liam Foster was promoted to the starting line-up in midfield with Kyle Holden switching to right-back.

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On a grey but calm afternoon at The Polegrove, the game was keenly contested throughout with lots of free kicks and a total of eight yellow cards, five of them for Varndeanians.

Bexhill gradually gained the upper hand in terms of possession, territory and chances as the first half progressed, and most of the opportunities fell to Sammy Bunn.

The attacking midfielder firstly shot wide from 25 yards at the end of a lovely move involving Liam Foster and Jack Shonk, and five minutes later his cross-shot from beyond the far post at a corner deflected wide.

Sammy Bunn holds off a Varndeanians opponent

Sammy Bunn holds off a Varndeanians opponent

In the closing minutes of the half, Bunn put a great opportunity over the crossbar following terrific work from Drew Greenall and Jack McLean before shooting just wide of the far post at the end of another good move featuring Holden and McLean.

McLean had earlier shot wide of the near post when under pressure following a neat inside pass from Greenall, while at the other end, Bexhill defender Lewis McGuigan made an important tackle at full stretch as Matt Waterman threatened to get away from him in the box.

Bexhill were very much on top at the start of the second period and Holden flashed a well-struck angled drive just wide of the far post after Greenall flicked on a Lopez cross.

The home side tested Varndeanians number one Thomas Bradford for the first time when McLean cut in from the left and struck a low shot which was parried by the goalkeeper, who then repelled the follow-up from Lopez.

Bexhill United goalscorer Nathan Lopez on the ball

Bexhill United goalscorer Nathan Lopez on the ball

Mishit shots by Shonk and McLean from inside the area were comfortably saved. At the other end, Waterman shot inches over with his left foot from inside the box and Craig McFarlane made a brilliant block from the same player as Varndeanians started to carry a goal threat.

But Bexhill took a deserved lead in the 71st minute. Attacking full-back Lopez brought Jamie Bunn’s low free kick under control before hitting a superb left-footed shot on the turn into the bottom corner.

Varndeanians seemed to step up a gear after falling behind and equalised with a well-worked goal. A dangerous low cross from the right-hand side of the area was scrambled home from close range by Joe Keehan amid a few Bexhill appeals for handball.

The visitors were in the ascendancy for the next five minutes or so and Scott Packer’s cross from the right struck the crossbar via the fingertips of Bexhill goalkeeper Dan Rose.

Lewis McGuigan tries to block the path of a Varndeanians player

Lewis McGuigan tries to block the path of a Varndeanians player

Bexhill finished the stronger and almost retook the lead when Holden went on an incredible run through the middle, beating several opponents on the way, before playing in Gordon Cuddington, whose low shot was saved.

Holden then had a shot of his own blocked in a crowded penalty area during the dying moments as Bexhill had to make do with a point from another whole-hearted display.

Bexhill: Rose; Holden, McGuigan, McFarlane, Lopez (Ottley 85); J. Bunn, Foster, S. Bunn; Shonk (Cuddington 62); Greenall, McLean. Subs not used: Robertson, Gouet.

Southern Combination League Division One top half standings (played-points): 1 Steyning Town 20-55 (+33 goal difference), 2 Alfold 19-45 (+36), 3 BEXHILL UNITED 20-44 (+39), 4 AFC Varndeanians 19-39 (+26), 5 Selsey 20-35 (+18), 6 Hailsham Town 20-32 (+9), 7 Seaford Town 19-28 (-3), 8 Littlehampton Town 19-27 (+1), 9 Billingshurst 19-27 (-2).