Little Common Football Club missed a second chance to make absolutely sure of winning the league as it was beaten by its nearest rivals this afternoon (Saturday).
The Commoners lost 3-2 away to second-placed Langney Wanderers in Macron Store Southern Combination League Division One, with Wayne Wilkinson scoring a hat-trick for the home side.
But Common will finally clinch the title as long as they avoid a six-goal defeat in their final fixture, at home to Billingshurst next weekend. Langney have now completed their matches.
Although Common trailed 2-0 and 3-1 at a sun-kissed Priory Lane, they still left frustrated to have lost the game having fashioned plenty of chances to have earned the point they needed.
The first half was a low key affair of few goalscoring opportunities, yet there were three goals. Langney were content to let Common have possession at the back and get bodies behind the ball, and Common struggled to break their opponents down.
That said, Common captain Lewis Hole fired just wide after only 30 seconds and 12 minutes later missed a great chance to open the scoring when he shot wide with only goalkeeper Josh Langley-Fineing to beat having been played in by Adam Smith.
Out of nowhere really, Langney drew first blood with their first real chance of the match in the 34th minute. Wilkinson stepped past Russell Eldridge and buried an accurate finish into the bottom corner from just outside the box.
Eldridge was in the right place to clear a Paul Rogers cross-shot moments before Langney doubled their advantage with a simple but nicely-executed goal in the 41st minute. Wilkinson headed a fine cross from the left by Gary Ingram into the corner of the net.
Common ended the first half strongly and were gifted a goal back in the second minute of added time. Eldridge’s inswinging corner from the right was spilled into his own net by Langley-Fineing.
Langney brought on Paul Weatherby for Tyler Capon at half time and were on the front foot at the beginning of what turned out to be a pulsating second period.
Ryan Alexander was whiskers away from turning the ball home after Rogers flicked on a corner, Rogers twice headed over from David Smart deliveries, while Wilkinson had a deflected shot held by Common goalkeeper Matt Cruttwell and headed wide from Ingram’s cross.
Langney restored their two-goal cushion in the 59th minute. Wilkinson stole in past Common full-back Louis Walker to side-foot volley Smart’s cross from the left into the net to complete a well-taken treble.
Common had it all to do at that stage, yet could well have pulled the game out of the fire as they played some decent football and carried plenty of goal threat during the remaining 35 minutes or so.
Smith’s well-struck angled drive was saved by Langley-Fineing at his near post and Jordan Harley shot just wide of the far post from an inviting position inside the box. Harley was also denied by Langley-Fineing following a scramble at a corner.
Common reduced their deficit to 3-2 in the 74th minute. Smith’s cross from near the byeline on the right was flicked on by Hole and Wes Tate volleyed in from close range.
After Rogers shot just wide of the far post for Langney, Common were agonisingly close to equalising as Smith’s shot beat Langley-Fineing only to be brilliantly cleared off the line by one-time Common player Alexander.
Hole also came close moments later, but Langney again scrambled the ball away from near the line. Harry Saville, who impressed with his trickery after coming on as a substitute, then shot just wide when under pressure from inside the box.
Quality balls into the box from Eldridge presented Common with two great chances in added time. Lewis Parsons firstly missed the target with a free header from just outside the six-yard box and Hole then headed onto the top of the net.
Weatherby blasted over from inside the box at the other end as Langney held on to record their first victory over Common this season following three previous defeats, two of them in the cups.
Common: Cruttwell, Parsons, Walker, Ward (Feakins 62), Maynard, Eldridge, Tate, Winter (Saville 62), Hole, Harley (Ellis 75), Smith. Sub not used: Collier.
Southern Combination League Division One top half (played-points): 1 LITTLE COMMON 33-82 (+72 goal difference), 2 Langney Wanderers 34-82 (+66), 3 Lingfield 33-76 (+64), 4 Ringmer 34-64 (+31), 5 Wick 33-60 (+31), 6 Mile Oak 34-56 (+14), 7 BEXHILL UNITED 34-55 (+20), 8 St Francis Rangers 34-47 (-14), 9 Selsey 33-46 (+2).
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