Fascinating title battle takes surprise twist

Action from the top-of-the-table clash between Sidley United and Battle Baptists. Pictures by Simon Newstead
Action from the top-of-the-table clash between Sidley United and Battle Baptists. Pictures by Simon Newstead

The fascinating battle for the East Sussex Football League Premier Division title took a surprise twist last weekend.

Top flight leaders Bexhill Town suffered a shock 1-0 defeat at home to St Leonards Social, while the tussle between the other two title contenders ended in a 2-0 win for Sidley United at home to Battle Baptists.

Action from the top-of-the-table clash between Sidley United and Battle Baptists

Action from the top-of-the-table clash between Sidley United and Battle Baptists

Sidley, who are still to drop a point at home, prevailed thanks to a goal in either half from Zack McEniry and Sean Baldwin.

They now trail Bexhill only on goal difference, while third-placed Battle are three points behind with a game in hand.

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Social’s victory took them off the bottom - above a Bexhill AAC team which has already finished its programme. Michael O’Callaghan netted their goal.

Elsewhere in the top flight, fourth-placed Robertsbridge United lost 1-0 at home to a Hawkhurst United side which moved up a position to seventh.

Action from the top-of-the-table clash between Sidley United and Battle Baptists

Action from the top-of-the-table clash between Sidley United and Battle Baptists

Punnetts Town extended their lead at the summit of Division One to 12 points without kicking a ball as scheduled hosts Bexhill United II were unable to field a side.

Third-placed Wadhurst United, who are 14 points behind Punnetts with six games in hand, are now the only team who can mathematically catch the leaders.

Herstmonceux climbed off the bottom courtesy of a 3-2 win away to Hollington United II - their first league victory of the season.

Strikes by Daniel Gregory, William Hutchings and Mark Stillwell meant it was 13th time lucky for Herstmonceux, despite the goals of Dan Kearley and Brett Moor for Hollington.

Action from the top-of-the-table clash between Sidley United and Battle Baptists

Action from the top-of-the-table clash between Sidley United and Battle Baptists

Mountfield United - who have already finished their programme - will finish at the foot of the standings.

There was also a game on Tuesday night. Bexhill United II drew 1-1 at home to The JC Tackleway - a result which moved both teams up a place to sixth and fourth respectively.

The Division Two title hopes of Battle Baptists II were boosted by a walkover win as scheduled visitors Robertsbridge United II were unable to raise a side.

Still unbeaten Battle are now just two points behind leaders St Leonards Social II having played three fewer matches.

Zack McEniry heads Sidley United in front against Battle Baptists

Zack McEniry heads Sidley United in front against Battle Baptists

Catsfield climbed to fourth following a 4-1 victory away to a Wittersham outfit playing its final league match of the campaign.

Peche Hill Select moved up to fifth - behind Catsfield on goal difference having played once more - on the back of a 2-0 success away to The JC Tackleway II. Tackleway must win their remaining two matches to finish outside the bottom two.

South Coast Athletico all but secured the runners-up spot in Division Three with a 1-0 triumph away to fourth-placed Bexhill Broncos.

Athletico need a point from their final game to make absolutely sure, but they are six points ahead of third-placed Victoria Baptists - who have two matches remaining - and possess a vastly superior goal difference.

Hawkhurst United II rose to fifth by dint of a 4-3 win at home to a Sandhurst side which is now certain to finish second-from-bottom. Jamie Young, William Mantle and Jason Baldock scored for Sandhurst.

Hampden Park were crowned Division Four champions courtesy of a 2-0 victory away to Northiam 75 II - the only team which had a mathematical chance of catching them at the start of last weekend.

Action from the top-of-the-table clash between Sidley United and Battle Baptists

Action from the top-of-the-table clash between Sidley United and Battle Baptists

Strikes by Jake Barker and Chris Puttick meant that Park ended their league campaign with 14 wins and two draws from 18 matches.

Northiam, who dropped to fourth, still have a chance of finishing second, but they trail Cranbrook Town by four points with a game in hand.

Sovereign Saints II climbed above Northiam to third via an 8-0 success at home to a Ticehurst team which will finish bottom having now completed its league fixtures.

The Division Five title race is set for an exciting finale, with the top two level on points heading into their final matches.

Second-placed AFC Hollington won 4-0 at home to Hooe and now trail leaders Little Common III by just four goals on goal difference.

Mark Blanche, Joe Miller, Steven Payne and Samuel Way were on the scoresheet for Hollington, whose last league game is at home to Burwash on March 16. Common’s remaining league match is at home to third-placed Welcroft Park Rangers on March 30.

There was also plenty of cup action and The JC Tackleway pulled off a splendid 3-1 win after extra-time away to Wadhurst United to reach the Sussex Bluefin Junior Challenge Cup final.

Goals from Josh Eaton, Toby Payne and Kale Williams gave Tackleway the spoils in an all-East Sussex League Division One affair. Harry Bateman was Wadhurst’s scorer.

Sedlescombe Rangers won 6-0 at home to fellow mid-table Premier Division outfit Rye Town in an ESFL Premier Travel Chauffeurs Challenge Cup semi-final.

A Philip Hatch hat-trick, and one apiece from Kasey Smith, Ryan Edwards and Aidan Aspinall put Sedlescombe through to a final meeting with Robertsbridge or Sidley.

Division Three champions Bexhill Rovers pulled off a splendid 3-2 victory after extra-time away to Division Two team Rock-a-Nore to reach the Hastings & District FA Junior Cup final.

Despite having two players sent-off in the second half of normal time, the Rocks were seconds away from victory when Luke Alais scored his second penalty of the match to force extra-time. Rob Nunes struck Rovers’ winner in the second additional period.

Their opponents in the final will be Icklesham Casuals or Wadhurst, who will contest the second semi-final tomorrow (Saturday).

Division Five leaders Little Common III are through to the Hastings & District FA Lower Divisions Cup final courtesy of a 4-0 success away to Sedlescombe Rangers III, of Division Four. Conor Chilton, Connor Morton, Sam Slayford and Connor Jackson were the scorers.

League games are scheduled in all six divisions tomorrow, along with six semi-finals in five separate cup competitions.

On top of that, the first four group matches in the ESFL Supplementary Competition are due to be played.

The league has taken the rare step of introducing a supplementary competition to provide more games for clubs who are finishing their seasons early due to the favourable winter weather.

It’s a far cry from last year when a whole host of postponements caused by prolonged bad weather meant there was a mad scramble at the end to get all the fixtures completed.

Action from the Premier Travel Chauffeurs Challenge Cup semi-final between Sedlescombe Rangers and Rye Town

Action from the Premier Travel Chauffeurs Challenge Cup semi-final between Sedlescombe Rangers and Rye Town

Action from the Premier Travel Chauffeurs Challenge Cup semi-final between Sedlescombe Rangers and Rye Town

Action from the Premier Travel Chauffeurs Challenge Cup semi-final between Sedlescombe Rangers and Rye Town