Bexhill see 3-1 lead turn into 5-3 defeat in epic contest

Action from Bexhill United's 5-3 defeat away to Lingfield on Saturday. Picture courtesy Mark Killy
Action from Bexhill United's 5-3 defeat away to Lingfield on Saturday. Picture courtesy Mark Killy
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Bexhill United’s footballers saw a potentially terrific victory turn into a heartbreaking defeat at Lingfield on Saturday.

The Pirates led 3-2 with 90 minutes on the clock only to concede three goals during a lengthy period of added time to lose 5-3.

Bexhill joint manager Ryan Light said: “It was a gut-wrenching, frustrating afternoon and it’s detracted from a fantastic advert for county league football.

“I’ve never seen a game that was so full throttle from both sides. It was a real blood and thunder cracking game of football, but the referee escalated it into a farce.”

Lingfield made the best start to a game of any team playing against Bexhill in Macron Store Southern Combination Football League Division One this season.

Samuel Bell put them ahead in the sixth minute, hooking the ball home from inside the six yard box after Bexhill goalkeeper Dan Rose saved Lingfield’s first attempt with his feet.

Bexhill equalised in the 44th minute. Gordon Cuddington skipped past an opponent and played a lovely ball through to Corey Wheeler, who flicked a neat first time finish past the goalkeeper as he came out and in off the far post.

Bexhill started the second half almost as well as Lingfield began the first and after Lingfield hit the far post with an angled drive, Bexhill took a 2-1 lead in the 57th minute. Wayne Giles dribbled into the box and after his mis-hit first effort came back to him off a defender, Giles looped his second attempt over the goalkeeper and into the net.

Lingfield hit the crossbar with a splendid header before Bexhill went further in front in the 66th minute. Matt Cunnington fizzed in an inviting cross which the excellent Giles cleverly sent back across goal and into the corner of the net.

Lingfield were thrown a lifeline in the 74th minute when, to the surprise of everyone, they were awarded a penalty that nobody even appealed for. The linesman flagged and informed the referee that Bexhill full-back Craig Ottley had touched the ball with his hand as he slid in to a tackle. Ottley insisted he hadn’t, but the spot-kick was awarded and David Heaton sent Rose the wrong way to make it 3-2.

With Bexhill camped in their box and the shots raining in, Lingfield grabbed a 92nd minute equaliser. Bell did well to work space for a shot which he buried into the far bottom corner.

Bexhill were expecting the final whistle to blow any moment, but still they kept playing and Lingfield then hit the front. A cross from the right was brilliantly headed back across goal into the corner of the net by TJ Stead, sparking joyous scenes among the home players.

Bexhill were by now dead on their feet and Aaron Stead swept home Lingfield’s fifth following a team-mate’s remarkable run down the left.

Bexhill: Rose; Holden, McFarlane, Kidman, Ottley; Gouet (Butchers), Wheeler, B. Trickett, Giles (Barden), Cunnington; Cuddington.

See our comprehensive sports coverage in the Observer every Friday.

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