Bexhill United Football Club twice came from behind to begin the second half of its league programme with a victory yesterday (Saturday).
The Pirates scored three second half goals without reply, despite having a player sent-off, to win 4-2 at home to St Francis Rangers in a keenly-contested Macron Store Southern Combination League Division One affair.
On a sunny but cold afternoon at The Polegrove, the game got off to a whirlwind start with three goals and a couple of skirmishes between opposing players in the opening 13 minutes.
St Francis opened the scoring inside two minutes. Bexhill cleared a corner from the away left, but only as far as Dan Lilley, who unleashed a brilliant left-footed shot into the top corner from nearly 30 yards.
Two minutes later Bexhill were level. Craig Ottley’s inswinging corner from the right ricocheted off a couple of St Francis players in the goal area before crossing the line. The referee eventually awarded the goal after consulting his linesman.
Bexhill forward Wayne Giles was twice denied by the feet of St Francis goalkeeper Harvey James following an Ottley free kick into the box. Minutes later at the other end, Bexhill stopper Dan Rose made a smart reflex save from Ross Jones at his near post.
St Francis retook the lead in the 13th minute. A throw-in on the away left led to Brandon Manoka rolling a left-footed shot from just inside the box into the bottom corner.
There was a lot of frustrated shouting but little goalmouth incident during the rest of a first half in which Bexhill were well below par, squandering possession too easily and too frequently.
Bexhill raised their game after the turnaround and took charge of the contest as a result. Lewis McGuigan got an important block on Luke Manley’s shot moments before Bexhill equalised for a second time in the 55th minute.
Gordon Cuddington was tripped by Ross McDonald just inside the St Francis box and the ever-reliable Ottley sent James the wrong way with the resulting penalty.
Craig McFarlane’s far post header from an Ottley free kick was well saved by James, while at the other end, Rose produced a superb reaction stop to keep out Louis McAuliffe’s close range header from Manley’s cross.
Bexhill hit the front for the first time in the 69th minute. A corner was punched clear by James, but Connor Robertson drove the ball back in, Cuddington flicked it up in the air and substitute Georges Gouet nodded in as the offside flag stayed down.
Four minutes later, Bexhill went down to 10 men. Kyle Holden was shown his second yellow card - and third red card of the season - for handball.
Bexhill remained in charge despite their numerical disadvantage. Ottley’s well-struck shot was well saved by James low to his left before McGuigan did well to get in the way of Jones’s effort at the other end.
The home side effectively wrapped up the points with a fourth goal in the 83rd minute. Zack McEniry, on for Giles, was played through and coolly slotted past James.
The influential Cuddington shot just wide of the far post with one attempt and then glanced another whiskers wide from Ottley’s well-delivered free kick. Right at the end, Rose pulled off a great save when Jones seemed certain to score a consolation.
Bexhill: Rose, Robertson, Ottley, McFarlane, McGuigan, Rea, Lopez, Holden, Giles (McEniry 71), Cuddington, McLean (Gouet 59). Sub not used: Cornelius.
Southern Combination League Division One top half (played-points): 1 LITTLE COMMON 18-46 (+43 goal difference), 2 Langney Wanderers 17-40 (+33), 3 Wick 18-39 (+32), 4 Lingfield 18-38 (+32), 5 BEXHILL UNITED 18-31 (+20), 6 Mile Oak 17-29 (+5), 7 Steyning Town 17-28 (+19), 8 Ringmer 18-27 (+11), 9 Selsey 16-26 (+10).