League determined to complete matches despite weather-hit Easter

The Macron East Sussex Football League is still aiming to get all of its league and cup fixtures completed, despite a weather-ravaged Easter.

Thursday, 5th April 2018, 5:29 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 12:29 am
Action from Orington's 3-0 win over Cranbrook Town on Saturday. Picture by Simon Newstead

Just four games involving clubs from the local league went ahead on Saturday and three were played on Monday as the exceptionally wet weather all but decimated the scheduled action.

League fixture secretary Kevin Bray said: “The plan is still to get them all done. I’m fairly confident we can get the league games all sorted out, but if any of the cup games go down (get postponed), I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

After just 81 postponements in the whole of last season, the figure for the current campaign is now over 250, including a remarkable 77 in March.

Action from Orington's 3-0 win over Cranbrook Town on Saturday. Picture by Simon Newstead

It’s the stuff of nightmares for a fixture secretary, and Bray has spent hours and hours every week rearranging matches following all the postponements.

“We’ve had seasons where there’s been more postponements, but this year it’s just been a continued run of poor weather since Christmas,” he continued.

“You expect bad weather in January and February, but once you get to March, you expect to start getting games played. The worst March we’ve had in the last five years we only had about five games called-off.”

Among the worst affected teams are Crowhurst, who still have 10 Premier Division fixtures to play, and Bexhill AAC, who have nine Division One matches plus a minimum of two cup ties left.

The season will be extended by a week until Saturday May 12 to help ease the congestion. At the moment only four or five games are planned for that date, although that could increase in the event of further postponements.

Council venues won’t be available by then, though, so any matches on that date will be played on what pitches are still in use.

The league has decided that the remaining Saturdays are going to be used to get as many league games done as possible.

There will be a few ‘double headers’ where teams will face each other in two games back-to-back and some clubs will host two games (involving different teams) on the same afternoon.

A lot of the remaining matches in the various cup competitions - there are still some quarter-finals to be played - will be held on midweek evenings, kicking-off at 6.30pm. If the scores are level after 90 minutes, games will go straight to penalties.

Getting cup ties played as soon as possible is a real priority because some potential venues for the finals may not be available in May.

The finals of two of the league’s three knockout competitions will be played at The Pilot Field - home of Hastings United FC - the next two Monday nights.

Division Two high-flyers Icklesham Casuals and Sovereign Saints will battle it out for the Wisdens Sports Challenge Cup on April 9, while Division Four rivals Orington and South Coast Athletico will lock horns in the Coopers Construction Challenge Cup decider on April 16.

As for the action which did take place over Easter, the stand-out result on Saturday was Sidley United’s superb 5-1 victory at home to Macron Store Southern Combination League Division Two side Westfield in a Hastings & District FA Intermediate Cup quarter-final.

Sean Baldwin scored a hat-trick, and Ashley Elphick and Arron Scrace netted once each for a Sidley outfit which raced into a 4-0 half time lead.

South Coast Athletico, from Division Four, triumphed by the same score against Division Five title hopefuls Hampden Park to reach the Coopers Construction Challenge Cup final.

Jack Bloomfield (2), Connor Easton, Ryan Wright and Bradley Owens netted for Athletico on the 3G pitch at Bexhill College, while Chris Puttick netted Hampden Park’s consolation.

As for the league action, Herstmonceux moved above Rock-a-Nore to third-from-bottom of Division One after beating them 4-0. Jack Nicholas bagged a hat-trick and Toby Guest got the other.

Orington extended their lead at the top of Division Four to five points courtesy of a 3-0 success at home to Cranbrook Town in the other match played on the Bexhill College 3G pitch.

Moving on to Monday and Hollington United went four points clear at the top of the Premier Division courtesy of a 2-1 win away to third-placed Rye Town.

Hollington, who have played a game more than second-placed Battle Baptists, remain the only team in the league’s six divisions to have conceded less than 10 league goals and they are still unbeaten.

Sidley United made it two wins in three days with a 3-2 victory over Sedlescombe Rangers to consolidate fourth place.

In a match switched from Oaklands Park in Sedlescombe to Hooe Rec, Josh Elliott-Noye put Sidley ahead only for Matt Shaw to level by half time. Goals from Lee Carey and Sean Baldwin gave Sidley a 3-1 lead before Mike Booth pulled one back.

Division One promotion hopefuls Bexhill AAC came from 1-0 down at half time to win 3-2 against Division Three high-flyers Sedlescombe Rangers II in a Hastings & District FA Junior Cup quarter-final.

In a match moved to Bexhill Road, Benjamin Seal put Sedlescombe ahead before a Darren Witham penalty and an Andy Atkin header gave AAC a 2-1 advantage.

Toby Hicks levelled for Sedlescombe only for Atkin to win it for AAC, who will face Icklesham Casuals or St Leonards Social II in the semi-finals.

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