Rye Town Football Club missed the chance to go top of the league, but did at least preserve its remarkable unbeaten record throughout 2017.
A heavily depleted Rye side recovered from 2-0 down in the first 10 minutes to salvage a 2-2 draw at home to Robertsbridge United on Saturday.
With fellow high-flyers Hollington United and Battle Baptists having their matches postponed, a win would have taken Rye top of the Macron East Sussex Football League Premier Division heading into the festive break.
The draw lifted Rye above Battle into second place on goal difference and within a point of leaders Hollington, albeit having played a game more than the other two title contenders.
Although boosted by the presence of the dual-registered Kenny Butchers (whose parent club Langney Wanderers didn’t have a fixture) and new recruit Greg Palmer, Rye were missing around 13 players in total for their final game of the calendar year.
George Ball played the first half despite suffering with a sickness bug and in-form outfield player Craig Pierce started the match in goal because regular number one Joe Ramsden was suspended and his obvious deputy, Shane Ridgers, wasn’t fit.
Rye were by far the better side early on and could’ve been two-up themselves only to then concede twice in almost the blink of an eye.
Guy Ballard put Robertsbridge ahead after Chris Gould tried to bring the ball down rather than head it away. Seconds after the ensuing kick-off, Gould’s attempted square pass to Luke Willis was intercepted and Curtis Coombes doubled the visitors’ advantage.
With Rye failing to win the second balls, they remained two-down at half time, prompting manager Ridgers to lay into his players for what he described as an ‘abysmal performance’.
The verbal dressing down had the desired effect, though, as Rye were a totally different side in the second period and in the end Ridgers felt they should have won the game.
Ridgers took off Ball and moved Butchers into a deeper, wider role, with Lewis Carpenter coming on up-front. The short, stocky figure of Carpenter made an instant impact and caused Robertsbridge plenty of problems.
Around the hour, Ridgers brought himself on in goal and moved Pierce into central midfield. That switch seemed to change the game as Rye now possessed more legs in a central area.
Rye pulled one back in the 73rd minute when defender Willis headed home from a Butchers cross. They equalised 10 minutes later as Carpenter’s shot took a big deflection off a Robertsbridge defender and ended up in the net.
Quite a few tackles were going in as the game became quite fiery during the latter stages. Rye thought they had grabbed a winner two minutes from time, but Sam Richardson’s bullet header was ruled out for a foul.
Carpenter was the Pikes Cleaning man of the match and the match was sponsored by Graeme Campbell from Station Antiques.
Rye: Pierce; Osborne, Fraser, Willis; Ball (Carpenter), Gould, Palmer (Ridgers), Skinner, Richardson; Levett, Butchers.
The league is now on its festive break and the action will resume on Saturday January 6, when Rye are due to visit Sedlescombe Rangers. Ridgers is likely to sign John Barker as cover.