Incredible character hailed as Bexhill grab winning premier start
Bexhill United boss Ryan Light praised the ‘incredible character’ that meant the team’s first county league top-flight campaign for 27 years got off to a winning start.
Alfold was the venue for the Pirates’ first SCFL premier division game after promotion and they won 3-2 despite having a man sent off.
Light said: “We showed incredible character to keep going and repeat the qualities of our first half performance despite playing the second half with a man less.” Summer signings Jack Shonk, Bradley Pritchard, Joe Summerbell, Dale Penn and Regan Smith all started at the Elliott Scott Stadium and Bexhill looked comfortable from the off.
They took the lead on 11 minutes though a Corey Wheeler shot that fizzed into the far corner.
Bexhill had the ball in the net twice more only for the linesman’ to flag for offside each time.
Pulling the strings in midfield, new boy Pritchard went close with a header at the far post.
The final stages of the second half were scrappy with torrential rain making any kind of flowing football almost impossible. With half-time looming, Alfold forced a corner and a good delivery to the far post was knocked down and swept goalwards and hit Bexhill captain Richie Welch who was on the goal-line.
The block was deemed to be handball to the dismay of the player – and a straight red card for Welch and a penalty followed. The spot-kick made it 1-1.
In the second half Alfold had the numerical advantage and were shooting down the slope and they pinned Bexhill into their defensive third – but the back line stood strong.
Bexhill always had a chance on the break and when Pritchard and Evan Archibald combined to set Shonk through, he calmly lifted the ball past the keeper to restore the lead.
From a corner, debutant Summerbell reacted first and finished neatly to extend Bexhill’s lead to 3-1.
With a few minutes to go Alfold’s Sam Lemon’s shot beat Bexhill goal keeper Dan Rose – hitting the post on its way in.
But Bexhill held on for the opening-day points and the final whistle blew to cheers of relief from the travelling supporters.
Tomorrow Bexhill host Peacehaven in the extra preliminary round of the FA Cup at The Pilot Field.