Early strike settles derby

Bexhill United match-winner Kevin Barden pictured during a recent game against Westfield. Picture courtesy Jon Smalldon
Bexhill United match-winner Kevin Barden pictured during a recent game against Westfield. Picture courtesy Jon Smalldon

It was third time lucky for Bexhill United’s footballers against crosstown rivals Little Common.

An early Kevin Barden goal gave Bexhill a 1-0 victory at The Polegrove yesterday (Saturday) following two cup defeats at Little Common Recreation Ground earlier in the season.

It also continued Bexhill’s fine recent record at home to Common having scored 11 goals in two comprehensive derby successes at The Polegrove last term.

In front of a sizeable festive crowd, Barden landed the decisive blow in only the fourth minute. A mistake by Common midfielder Jared Lusted presented Barden with a clear sight of goal and he neatly rolled the ball past goalkeeper Matt Cruttwell.

Bexhill had a decent opportunity to double their advantage a couple of minutes later in their penultimate home game of the season. Scott McDonald elected to take the shot early - when he had time to have dribbled closer to goal - and didn’t get enough height on his chip to beat Cruttwell.

There was precious little goalmouth action during the rest of the first half. Common enjoyed the bulk of the play with the bitingly cold wind at their backs, but failed to convert possession into goalscoring opportunities and Bexhill goalkeeper Yankuba Camara dealt well with several set-piece deliveries.

Common again made the running for much of the second half, with Bexhill posing the occasional threat on the counter-attack. Bexhill showed why they’ve conceded just 17 goals in 19 league games by defending resolutely, with impressive centre-halves George Aston and the fit-again Dan Cruikshank making some important blocks.

The visitors had a confident penalty appeal turned down when Lusted’s left-foot shot appeared to strike the raised arm of a sliding Cruikshank in the only noteworthy incident of the third quarter, but there was more action in the final 25 minutes.

The entertaining and unpredicatable Camara acrobatically repelled Martin Denny’s shot from outside the box before parrying a Russell Eldridge free kick in unorthodox but effective fashion.

A shot by Chris Cumming-Bart, who had a decent game, after Jamie Crone failed to connect with an Andy Atkin cross was saved by the legs of Cruttwell, while at the other end, Denny sliced wide having exchanged passes with Lewis Hole and a well-struck Steve Morris shot from Jake Sherwood’s pull-back was straight at Camara.

Steve Mote’s back header from an Eldridge free kick was again straight at Camara, Denny and Morris had efforts blocked, and Jack Woodward shot narrowly over from just inside the box. A Cumming-Bart effort at the other end deflected wide.

Bexhill remain second having extended their unbeaten run to 11 Macron Store Sussex County Football League Division Two matches, while seventh-placed Common’s bid for a third successive top four finish now looks unlikely.

Bexhill: Camara, G. Aston, Ottley, Elliott-Noye, Cruikshank, J. Aston, Barden (Garman 50), Cumming-Bart, McDonald (Crone 66), Atkin, McMinigal (Clifford 73). Sub not used: Cooper.

Common: Cruttwell, Sherwood, S. Mote, Eldridge, McEniry, Smith, Bristow (Woodward 52), Brown (MacDonald 84), Hole, Morris, Lusted (Denny 63).

Standings (played-points): 1 Worthing United 17-42, 2 BEXHILL UNITED 19-39, 3 Wick & Barnham United 16-36, 4 AFC Uckfield Town 19-36, 5 Mile Oak 16-28, 6 Oakwood 15-27, 7 LITTLE COMMON 19-26, 8 Haywards Heath Town 19-26, 9 Steyning Town 16-25, 10 Midhurst & Easebourne 17-22, 11 WESTFIELD 18-21, 12 Rustington 18-20, 13 Saltdean United 17-14, 14 Storrington 19-13, 15 Seaford Town 19-0.