Bexhill rue missed opportunity after semi-final loss

Craig McFarlane - Bexhill United's supporters' player of the season - was probably the stand-out player against Oakwood.
Craig McFarlane - Bexhill United's supporters' player of the season - was probably the stand-out player against Oakwood.

Bexhill United Football Club was left to rue ‘a real missed opportunity’ after suffering a hugely disappointing cup semi-final defeat last night (Wednesday).

The Pirates lost 1-0 to Oakwood in a Macron Store Southern Combination League Division One Challenge Cup last four tie played at Newhaven FC’s Trafalgar Ground.

Bexhill manager Ryan Light said: “Totally gutted. Really disappointed, with our first half performance especially. It was a real missed opportunity.”

Bexhill are 12 places and 33 points above Oakwood in the league, and won both league meetings between the clubs, but a solitary first half goal put the Crawley-based side through to the final.

Both clubs were playing for the third time in five days and Light felt the busy schedule had a bearing as Oakwood avenged a 1-0 defeat to Bexhill in the 2013/14 semi-final.

“Maybe Saturday and Monday took its toll a little bit more than we thought,” he continued. “It was just a night where it caught up with us.

“I know you say it’s the same for both sides, but I think they sacrificed Monday’s game, took a hammering at Lingfield and rested their team.

“Three games in five days made for a poor spectacle. Both teams had played a lot of football and for a semi-final it was a game of really poor quality from both sides.

“A major factor in that was putting it two days after the teams had played twice already. It was just madness, just too much. Two teams that lacked sharpness and looked tired.”

Bexhill couldn’t really get going in the first half and Light felt that Oakwood did the basics better, saying his team played too many difficult balls rather than doing the simple things.

Bexhill came close to scoring when Corey Wheeler knocked the ball past the goalkeeper only to see it bounce up, hit the post and come back out.

They also looked dangerous from corners. Craig Ottley whipped in two or three corners in quick succession which were cleared from on or around the goal-line.

Oakwood grabbed what proved to be the winner in rather scrappy fashion. The ball hit Bexhill goalkeeper Dan Rose on the back of the legs in a goalmouth scramble and went in, Charlie Adsett credited with the goal.

Light said Bexhill didn’t feel hard done by to be trailing as they hadn’t played very well. After a bit of a half time rollicking, their second half performance was a lot better.

But although Bexhill dominated the play after the turnaround, they lacked any real cutting edge in the final third and probably mustered only three or four attempts at goal.

“We were the better side throughout the 90 minutes, but we just lacked the quality we normally have and we just couldn’t get the goal,” added Light.

“If we had got our noses in front, I think they would’ve died. As it was we huffed and puffed, and tried our best, but we didn’t have that sharpness in the final third.”

Bexhill: Rose; Rea, McGuigan, McFarlane, Ottley (Gouet); McLean, Holden (Giles), Foster, Robertson, Wheeler (Harffey); Cuddington.

With no cup final to look forward to, Bexhill will now have to pick themselves up for their final four league matches, all of which are away from home. The first of them is a third versus fifth fixture at Lingfield on Saturday.

Light said: “Almost every day I’m sending out a match text and it’s just wearing us down a little bit. Hopefully we can regroup and give a good account of ourselves at what’s going to be an extremely difficult venue.”

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