Eastbourne United 2-2 Broadbridge Heath
Beware of injured Bears
Broadbridge Heath travelled to play second placed Eastbourne United on Saturday with only four regular first team players available and seven players making their season debut in the starting lineup. So the pre-match expectations of the small band of Heath supporters who travelled to the game was more on keeping the score respectable than any thoughts of coming away with a point.
Despite the odds against them it was Heath who created the first opening when Darren Helsdown got behind the United fullback and whipped a low ball from the left across the face of goal to George Cousins who met it in his stride but shot just wide of goalkeeper Phil Hawkins left hand post. United responded immediately with Lucas Mann twice going close when well positioned and at the other end Devon Fender tested Hawkins handling with a rasping right foot shot which the keeper did well to keep out.
Jamie Craven, back between the sticks for his first game of the season, then did well to deny Mann from point blank range and Heath went straight up the other end where Alex Parsons blasted a shot that crashed against the inside of the post and rebounded straight into the arms of a grateful Hawkins. With 5 minutes of the half remaining debutant Mathias Agbeto was dispossessed just inside his own half; the ball was played into the path of Peter Cooper who hammered a shot past Craven to give his team the lead at break.
Painter made some changes at half-time, changing the team shape and bringing on 17 year old Kyle Sim, who normally plays centre-back for the Under 18s, and putting him up front to partner Fender in a two-man attack. That move almost paid off immediately when the pair combined with Helsdown on the left and the former Heath youth player picked out Fender at the far post but he was denied by Hawkins who scrambled the ball off the line at the second attempt. Heath continued to push forward in search of an equaliser and felt they should have been awarded a penalty when Dan Attwater’s goal-bound attempt was clearly handled in the box but the referee ignored the players claims and within two minutes United had doubled their lead when Kane Penn received the ball with his back to goal and the midfield player turned on a sixpence to blast a shot wide of Craven from 12 yards giving him no chance of stopping.
Painter continued to scream at his players to get them to push forward and Fender was again denied in the 67th minute when Hawkins saved brilliantly low to his left to push the ball wide of the post but the Eastbourne stopper could do nothing to prevent Heath from pulling a goal back when Charlie Bennett, making his debut, split the home defence with an inch perfect pass to allow Fender to advance on goal and slot the ball wide of Hawkins into the net.
Heath continued to put the home-side under pressure and were rewarded with the equaliser 6 minutes from time when Fender crossed from the left to Cousins and the former Brighton youth player calmly picked his spot wide of Hawkins to bring the Bears level. A truly impressive display from a team thrown together at the last minute and for Helsdown a “man of the match” performance which should see him retain his place in the team for Tuesday’s home fixture with Arundel when Painter hopes to welcome back at least six of his absentees.
Team: Craven, Elkana, Robinson, Attwater, McKibben, Bennett, Agbeto (Sim 45), Parson, Fender, Cousins, Helsdown.