Bexhill United Football Club needed an 89th minute goal to secure a hard-earned victory over 10-man opposition yesterday (Saturday).
Drew Greenall’s late header gave the Pirates a 2-1 win at home to an Oakwood side which played most of the second half a man down following a red card.
Bexhill remain third in the Southern Combination League Division One table - five points behind new leaders Alfold and second-placed Steyning Town.
Ryan Light’s side triumphed 6-1 away to Oakwood in October’s reverse fixture, but Bexhill were certainly made to work far harder this time around as the visitors performed above their fourth-from-bottom position with a whole-hearted and combative display.
Bexhill played with the stiff wind at their backs during the first half and Craig McFarlane couldn’t direct his far post header on target from Jamie Bunn’s corner before Jack McLean’s left-footed shot from the edge of the box was well saved by goalkeeper Jordan Markey low to his left.
The home team opened the scoring in the 24th minute. Attacking full-back Nathan Lopez got away down the left and his low ball across goal was deftly touched into the far bottom corner by Jack Shonk.
Bexhill seemed well in control for the next dozen or so minutes. Shonk cut in from the right and shot just wide following a lovely ball by Bunn, while Kyle Holden’s goalbound shot deflected wide after good work inside the area from Sammy Bunn.
Oakwood threatened for the first time when Hazar Ayyildiz was sent clear by a ball over the top of Bexhill’s defence, but he couldn’t beat goalkeeper Dan Rose with his finish.
Bexhill survived that scare, but the scores were level shortly afterwards in the 39th minute. McFarlane brought down Josh Neathey as he slid in and Oluwaseun Olabiyi sent Rose the wrong way with the resulting penalty.
Bexhill almost retook the lead during six minutes of added time at the end of the first half, but Markey produced a fine save diving to his right to deny Greenall.
Another chance followed in the opening minute of the second period. Holden burst through the inside left channel only to pull his shot just wide of the far post.
At the other end, Ayyildiz had a goalbound shot blocked at a corner, Neathey’s strike was blocked by McFarlane and Jonathan Noakes headed home following a long throw only be thwarted by the referee’s whistle.
Sammy Bunn then had a couple of attempts at goal for Bexhill, firstly bringing a very good diving save out of Markey at the end of a well-worked move before seeing a header from his brother’s corner held by the goalkeeper.
Oakwood were reduced to 10 men in the 64th minute. Alfie Jones, who had been booked late in the first half, chopped up Lopez just inside Bexhill’s half and the referee had little option other than to produce a second yellow card.
Bexhill pressed and probed in search of a potential winner thereafter, but other than Sammy Bunn sending a free kick over the crossbar, there was little in the way of goalmouth incident - until that crucial moment as the clock ticked towards the end of the 90 minutes.
McLean won a corner from a great run down the left and the tall figure of Greenall rose highest in a crowded penalty area to head Jamie Bunn’s delivery into the net.
There was still plenty of time to go as it turned out as the game continued well past 5pm. The only noteworthy moment during nearly 11 minutes added time was a Noakes header from the edge of Bexhill’s box dropping just over the crossbar.
Bexhill: Rose; Robertson (Foster 65), McGuigan, McFarlane, Lopez; J. Bunn, Holden, S. Bunn (Kalambayi 77); Shonk (Parchmont 71), Greenall, McLean. Sub not used: Ottley.
Southern Combination League Division One top half standings (played-points): 1 Alfold 26-64 (+46 goal difference), 2 Steyning Town 26-64 (+43), 3 BEXHILL UNITED 26-59 (+55), 4 AFC Varndeanians 25-52 (+30), 5 Selsey 27-51 (+27), 6 Hailsham Town 26-38 (+8), 7 Littlehampton Town 26-38 (+3), 8 Wick 26-36 (-7), 9 Seaford Town 26-33 (-7).