In-form Battle go five clear at the top

Battle Baptists full-back Ian Rafati is closed down by Bexhill Town midfielder Craig Ottley. Pictures by Simon Newstead
Battle Baptists full-back Ian Rafati is closed down by Bexhill Town midfielder Craig Ottley. Pictures by Simon Newstead

Battle Baptist Football Club’s first team went five points clear at the top of the table after continuing its super start to 2018.

A goal in either half gave the Baptists a 2-0 win away to a resilient Bexhill Town side in the Macron East Sussex League Premier Division on Saturday.

Battle Baptists in possession during their 2-0 win over Bexhill Town.

Battle Baptists in possession during their 2-0 win over Bexhill Town.

Battle, who have played two games more than second-placed Hollington United, have now won all of their four matches in all competitions since the turn of the year without conceding a goal.

At a stereotypically cold, wet and windy Bexhill Road, where only one match survived the weather, the wintry conditions influenced this game right from the first whistle.

As the wind gusted across the pitch for the whole game, the Baptists were quickest to adjust, finding early joy down both flanks, with wide men Joe Brister and Trystan Mayhew stretching their counterparts and causing problems with dangerous crosses.

As Battle grew into the game, they turned defence into attack quickly as they moved the ball swiftly through the midfield and on to attacking runners.

More action from a wet and windy afternoon at Bexhill Road.

More action from a wet and windy afternoon at Bexhill Road.

The combination play between Brister, Dean Boyd and Josh Pickering soon broke the deadlock. A good interchange led to a throughball to the onrunning Pickering, who finished with composure to give the Baptists the lead after around 20 minutes.

Battle’s ever-present back four of Ian Rafati, Ollie Jeffs, Tom Saunders and Harry Loates were well-organised and disciplined, and when needed, goalkeeper Jake Rudwick was on hand to keep the score at 1-0.

Rudwick pulled up with a hamstring injury after taking a goal kick, but was able to carry on and was solid throughout despite not moving well.

At half time, Battle knew that another goal would be needed to see out the game, with the conditions disrupting the flow of both teams.

Bexhill put Battle under significant pressure for a decent spell of the second half, with the central midfield duo of Dale Vinall and Glen Carrick helping to hold it all together with their workrate.

As Bexhill pressed on, Battle were saved by two goal-line clearances from Vinall and Brister, as well as safe hands from the hampered Rudwick.

Battle introduced two familiar faces in Adam Higgins-Gooch and Ollie Norris after recent absences, and they were soon able to join in the celebrations as good build-up play in the midfield found Boyd on the edge of the box to stroke past the diving Bexhill goalkeeper.

The second goal brought huge relief in the Battle camp, and was the reward for some determined defending and patience throughout.

Battle could have had another, but a late penalty shout was waved away after Boyd appeared to have been chopped by a late Bexhill tackle.

The full time whistle brought warm celebrations for Battle, led by Medica man of the match Vinall, and relief from the cold for all.

Weather permitting, Battle are due to host Crowhurst in a Hastings & District FA Intermediate Cup quarter-final tomorrow (Saturday).

The Baptists will visit Selhurst United (SE London) in a National Christian Cup quarter-final next weekend after Selhurst beat FC Cornerstone (Stevenage) 3-0 last weekend.

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