An 88th minute penalty from Zack McEniry gave Bexhill United Football Club a hard-earned victory yesterday (Saturday).
The Pirates recovered from falling behind early in the second half to win 2-1 at home to Oakwood in Macron Store Southern Combination Football League Division One.
Bexhill manager Ryan Light said beforehand he expected a completely different game to the 7-0 victory in August’s reverse fixture and his team was certainly made to work far harder on a chilly January afternoon at The Polegrove.
Bexhill were quick out of the blocks and dominated the first 10 minutes. Jack McLean fired wide of the far post inside 40 seconds before Nathan Lopez missed the target from inside the box at the end of a terrific move involving McEniry, Connor Robertson, Georges Gouet and McLean.
Oakwood then grew into the game and things became far more even for the remainder of the first half. Most of the attempts at goal came from Bexhill, although they tended to be half chances rather than clearcut opportunities and they didn’t work the goalkeeper.
After Tom Agate’s goalbound shot following a free kick into Bexhill’s box was deflected wide, Luke Woodley struck the near post at the other end direct from a corner and later delivered a free kick which led to Gouet firing wide on his left foot.
A Lopez cross following a short corner went right across the face goal without getting the decisive touch it needed, while Kyle Holden’s shot following a good throughball by Gordon Cuddington deflected just wide.
Things got a bit feisty during the final 15 minutes of the half. Oakwood defender Omar Bah was shown a yellow card for a poor challenge which left Lopez in agony and although the Bexhill midfielder gallantly soldiered on, he had to be withdrawn at half time.
Bah was lucky not to receive a second yellow in added time when he lunged in on Cuddington. In between those two incidents, Cuddington - somewhat unfortunately - and McEniry - deservedly - also went into the referee’s notebook.
Also in added time, Oakwood fashioned probably the best chance of the half. A long goal kick was flicked on and Chris Neatherway held off Bexhill’s stand-in captain Lewis McGuigan but blazed over with just goalkeeper Dan Rose to beat.
Neatherway made no mistake, however, in the second minute of the second half when McEniry didn’t get enough on his attempted back header and the forward rolled the ball past Rose.
Bexhill levelled just four minutes later through a simple-looking but superbly-taken goal from Robertson, who received a throw-in from Woodley on the left and worked the space he needed to find the far corner with a splendid shot from outside the area.
Gouet blazed over having been well picked out by Robertson, while at the other end, Neatherway was off target with a well-struck volley.
Bexhill pushed McEniry up-front for the final half-hour or so and aided by his prowess in the air, the home side carved out several decent openings as they looked the team far more likely to conjure up a winner.
McEniry’s shot was saved by the legs of Oakwood goalkeeper Joe Clark after the visitors failed to deal with Woodley’s cross from the left. Robertson then saw a goalbound header from Ryan Harffey’s corner blocked.
Cuddington’s looping header after Bah completely misdirected his attempted headed clearance dropped just over, while McLean poked wide with only Clark to beat following McEniry’s headed knock down.
Clark pulled off an amazing save low to his left to deny Cuddington and then kept out Harffey’s shot after the Bexhill substitute had got away from two defenders from Woodley’s ball forward.
Just as it started to look as though it may not be Bexhill’s day, they finally broke through. Cuddington was upended by Bah following McEniry’s clever flick for a clear penalty and after Bah was shown a second yellow card, McEniry coolly sent Clark the wrong way from the spot.
Bexhill: Rose, McEniry, Woodley, Robertson, McGuigan, Holden, Gouet, Beale (Cornelius 55), McLean, Cuddington, Lopez (Harffey HT). Sub not used: Giles.
Southern Combination League Division One top half (played-points): 1 LITTLE COMMON 23-58 (+53 goal difference), 2 Langney Wanderers 23-54 (+40), 3 Wick 22-44 (+32), 4 Lingfield 21-43 (+34), 5 Mile Oak 22-41 (+15), 6 BEXHILL UNITED 23-40 (+20), 7 Selsey 21-37 (+14), 8 Ringmer 23-36 (+11), 9 Steyning Town 23-31 (+15).
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