Little Common Football Club continued its three-year winning run against neighbours Bexhill United with a 2-0 victory at The Oval yesterday (Boxing Day).
Second half goals from Russell Eldridge and Lewis Hole settled a keenly-contested Macron Store Southern Combination League Division One first versus sixth encounter.
There wasn’t a great deal between the sides on the whole, but Common - as top-of-the-table teams often do - came up with the moments that mattered and found a way to get the win in a game which won’t go down as a classic, not helped by a heavy pitch.
Common fielded the same starting line-up as that which hammered St Francis Rangers 6-0 on Saturday, while Bexhill - who were missing the likes of Kyle Holden, Lewis McGuigan, Chris Rea and Connor Robertson - gave a debut to Hollington United regular Luke Woodley at left-back.
Common number one Matt Cruttwell was the busier of the two goalkeepers during a first half which began in bright sunshine and ended in a heavy downpour of rain and hail with a rainbow over the ground.
Bexhill came the closest to scoring in the 26th minute. Gordon Cuddington ran clear of the home defence and Cruttwell got a foot to his shot, diverting the ball against the post.
Cruttwell also saved Jack McLean’s angled shot at his near post and the same player later forced him into a diving stop low to his right, with Cuddington putting the rebound wide from a tight angle.
At the other end, Wes Tate’s shot from an inviting position in front of goal after Bexhill goalkeeper Dan Rose spilled a cross deflected over and Hole fired over on the turn having chested down Tate’s ball in from the left.
As you’d expect in a derby, a few tackles were flying in. The first half produced a booking for either side and one or two others might have been fortunate not to have their names taken too.
Tempers frayed eight minutes into the second period when Common full-back Louis Walker and Bexhill wide player Georges Gouet, subsequently joined by several of their respective team-mates, tangled by the corner flag right in front of the linesman, but no cards were shown on this occasion.
There was no goalmouth incident of note at either end during the third quarter of the match, but Common broke the deadlock in the 70th minute - five minutes after substituting both of their carded players - aided by a bit of good fortune.
Former Common player Zack McEniry, who had a solid game in the heart of Bexhill’s defence, was booked for a foul and Eldridge’s resulting free kick, from around 30 yards, took a significant deflection off the top of the defensive wall, leaving Rose with no chance.
Bexhill manager Ryan Light, who believed the free kick was taken from the wrong position, was sent from the dugout before play restarted for a comment made to the referee.
A Sam Ellis shot from outside the box deflected just wide of Bexhill’s goal a couple of minutes before Cuddington headed a Gouet cross straight at Cruttwell when well placed.
Common doubled their advantage in the 78th minute. A Sam Winter throw-in midway inside Common’s half was hooked forward by Ellis and as Rose hesitated slightly, Hole got there just before Bexhill’s goalkeeper to poke the ball home.
That goal effectively settled the game as a contest and Common were comfortable thereafter, even though more than eight minutes of added time were played.
Another Eldridge free kick, this time without a deflection, was pushed aside by Rose, who made a double save in added time to deny Jamie Crone as he went through.
Common: Cruttwell, Paul, Walker (Ward 65), Winter, Maynard, Eldridge, Tate, Saville (Crone 65), Hole, Ellis (Parsons 90), Smith. Sub not used: Feakins.
Bexhill: Rose, Cornelius, Woodley, McFarlane, McEniry, Beale, Gouet (Wheeler 77), Lopez (Harffey 85), Cuddington, Foster, McLean. Subs not used: Giles, Barden.
Southern Combination League Division One top half (played-points): 1 LITTLE COMMON 21-55 (+53 goal difference), 2 Langney Wanderers 20-47 (+36), 3 Wick 21-44 (+34), 4 Lingfield 20-42 (+34), 5 Mile Oak 20-35 (+5), 6 BEXHILL UNITED 21-34 (+17), 7 Selsey 19-33 (+13), 8 Ringmer 20-30 (+11), 9 Steyning Town 19-29 (+17).