McLean hits hat-trick as Bexhill stun Langney

Jack McLean (left) is congratulated by Corey Wheeler (centre) and Nathan Lopez (right) after scoring the first of his three goals. Pictures by Simon Newstead
Jack McLean (left) is congratulated by Corey Wheeler (centre) and Nathan Lopez (right) after scoring the first of his three goals. Pictures by Simon Newstead

Jack McLean scored a hat-trick as Bexhill United Football Club overturned a half time deficit to end Langney Wanderers’ unbeaten home record today (Saturday).

The Pirates came from 1-0 down to win 3-1 away to a second-placed Langney side which won 11 and drawn one of its previous 12 Macron Store Southern Combination League Division One home fixtures this term.

Bexhill United full-back Connor Robertson keeps a close eye on Langney Wanderers captain Wayne Wilkinson.

Bexhill United full-back Connor Robertson keeps a close eye on Langney Wanderers captain Wayne Wilkinson.

Bexhill had lost their four previous meetings with Langney - the highest scorers in the entire league - since the start of last season, but they started positively on the artificial pitch at Eastbourne Borough FC.

Playing with the breeze at their backs, the visitors won four corners in the opening five minutes and one of them, taken by Craig Ottley, was headed away from near the goal-line by Langney defender Peter Featherstone.

Although Langney gradually found their feet, Bexhill appeared unfortunate to have a goal disallowed in the 15th minute. Connor Robertson seemed to have timed his run perfectly as he latched on to a Nathan Lopez pass, but the offside flag was raised.

Five minutes later Langney opened the scoring. David Smart’s inswinging corner from the right was superbly headed into the far top corner by Jamie Bunn - certainly not the tallest player on the pitch but he rose well in a crowded box - from just inside the penalty spot.

Bexhill United midfielder Kyle Holden challenges Langney Wanderers forward Shane Saunders for an aerial ball.

Bexhill United midfielder Kyle Holden challenges Langney Wanderers forward Shane Saunders for an aerial ball.

There wasn’t a great deal between the sides during the remainder of the first half and Bexhill passed the ball well at times, but Langney - who have netted 97 times in the league this season - carried the greater goal threat.

Robertson’s dipping shot from outside the area dropped just over, while at the other end, Shane Saunders headed just wide from one of several Langney corners and Smart’s sweetly-struck free kick from more than 25 yards whistled inches wide.

Saunders fired over from 20 yards and Bexhill defender Zack McEniry made an important block from Wayne Wilkinson’s goalbound half-volley inside the area.

Langney’s best chance to double their lead came in the 44th minute. Gary Ingram got goalside of Bexhill’s defence from a Saunders pass, but skewed his shot wide under pressure from the back-tracking McEniry.

Bexhill United midfielder Liam Foster on the ball.

Bexhill United midfielder Liam Foster on the ball.

Bexhill began the second period as well as they had the first and equalised within two minutes of the resumption. Ottley’s dangerous cross from the left was headed by a Langney defender straight to McLean, who drove a low left-footed shot into the net.

The away side was whiskers away from taking the lead in almost identical fashion two minutes later. Ottley’s cross again wasn’t dealt with by the Langney defence and this time McLean’s shot struck the top of the crossbar.

After Bexhill goalkeeper Dan Rose dealt with a well-struck drive from distance by Wilkinson, Lopez had an effort chalked off for offside following a lovely piece of skill and pass by Kyle Holden.

McLean skipped past a couple of Langney defenders before seeing his shot saved by the feet of goalkeeper Joshua Langley-Fineing, while at the other end, Ryan Alexander had a decent chance when the ball was played back in following a corner but didn’t get enough meat on his shot.

Bexhill hit the front in the 58th minute. McEniry’s free kick from near the touchline on the left wasn’t cleared by Langney and McLean’s volley had just too much on it for Langley-Fineing, who got a hand on it low to his right but couldn’t keep it out.

Langney almost levelled straight afterwards, but Bexhill somehow survived a goalmouth scramble after Rose spilled a free kick into the box.

Bexhill had a fair bit of defending to do during the rest of the game, including a number of corners, but led by centre-halves McEniry and Craig McFarlane, they remained resolute and kept their lead in tact.

Shortly after Wilkinson was booked for lunging in on Rose with a tackle which angered Ottley in particular, Simon Catt rattled Bexhill’s post with a tremendous volley from the edge of the box.

Bexhill promptly stretched their lead with a third goal which stemmed from a Langney corner in the 81st minute. Langley-Fineing came out of his box in an attempt to clear Liam Foster’s ball over the top, but missed his kick and McLean rolled the ball home to complete his treble.

In by now heavy rain, Langney wide player Paul Weatherby flashed a long range shot narrowly off target, while deep into added time Bunn’s shot from 25 yards was gathered by Rose and Wilkinson fired just over from outside the area, but it was very much Bexhill’s day.

Bexhill: Rose, Robertson, Ottley, McFarlane, McEniry, Holden, McLean (Butchers 90+5), Foster, Cuddington (Giles 90), Lopez, Wheeler (Harffey 83). Sub not used: Robinson.

Southern Combination League Division One top half (played-points): 1 LITTLE COMMON 27-70 (+65 goal difference), 2 Langney Wanderers 27-63 (+54), 3 Lingfield 26-58 (+46), 4 BEXHILL UNITED 28-49 (+25), 5 Ringmer 27-48 (+18), 6 Wick 25-47 (+30), 7 Mile Oak 27-44 (+7), 8 Selsey 25-40 (+9), 9 Hailsham Town 25-38 (+1).

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