Bexhill United Football Club produced a tremendous performance in narrowly losing to a team which plays three levels higher up the non-league pyramid.
Southern Combination League Division One high-flyers Bexhill were edged out 1-0 at home to Bostik League Premier Division side Burgess Hill Town in round two of the Sussex Senior Challenge Cup tonight (Tuesday).
Although the Hillians made nine changes to their starting line-up from the weekend league win at Margate, Bexhill competed admirably and the result was a pretty fair reflection of the game on a breezy but mild night at The Polegrove.
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Burgess Hill saw plenty of the ball during the opening 20 minutes and had three fairly decent attempts at goal, albeit all of them from outside the penalty area.
Andre McCollin’s 25-yard free kick was gathered by Bexhill goalkeeper Dan Rose at the second attempt, McCollin’s powerful drive from distance was parried by Rose before being cleared and Josh Short fired just over from around 30 yards.
Bexhill grew into the game as the first half progressed and Jack Shonk showed a glimpse of the talent which has earned him 21 goals already this season by cutting in from the left touchline before skilfully working space to fire just over the crossbar.
After 20 minutes without any goalmouth incident, Lukas Franzen-Jones played a nice give and go with Pat Harding only for a weak finish to be easily dealt with by Rose.
Just as it looked like Bexhill would get through to half time still on level terms, Burgess Hill grabbed what turned out to be the winner in the 45th minute. David Castanho slipped a neat pass through the middle for Harding to roll a first time left-footed shot past Rose.
In-form Bexhill wide player Jack McLean didn’t arrive in time to start the match, but was brought on for Wayne Giles at half time and was quick to make his mark after the restart.
McLean came close to equalising when he intercepted a Tariq Richards back header and lifted the ball over Hillians goalkeeper Mitch Bromage only for Henry Watson to arrive in the nick of time and head the ball clear from near the goal-line.
Moments later McLean flashed a well-struck 25-yard drive narrowly wide of the far post.
Although Burgess Hill looked pretty comfortably defensively during the closing 40 minutes, there wasn’t much between the teams and Bexhill - who lasted the distance very commendably against higher grade opposition - were always in the game.
Rose was forced into his sole genuine save during the second period when he got down well to stop a deflected cross from the away left by Hillians substitute Kieron Dimscun.
Castanho had a goalbound shot blocked by Bexhill captain Craig McFarlane and Dimscun then sent a low drive just wide of the far post at the end of a driving run.
Bexhill: Rose, Robertson (Rea 67), Lopez, McFarlane, McGuigan, Holden, Shonk, J. Bunn, Giles (McLean HT), S. Bunn (Foster 81), McEniry. Sub not used: Cuddington.
Burgess Hill: Bromage, Richards, Fisk, Franzen-Jones (Webster 86), Tuck, Watson, McCollin (Dimscun 54), Bennett, Harding, Castanho (Bradley 69), Short. Sub not used: Harper.