Bexhill United’s hopes of winning their first piece of senior county silverware in 40 years ended in disappointment.
The Pirates were beaten 4-1 by Loxwood in the Sussex County Football League Division Two Challenge Cup final at Hanbury Park, home of Haywards Heath Town FC, this afternoon (Monday).
On paper Bexhill would’ve gone into the game as underdogs given that Loxwood finished 25 points and five places above them in the league, and scored five goals in both of the league meetings between the clubs.
But Bexhill began fairly encouragingly and took the lead with a well-worked goal in the 15th minute. A free kick from the middle of the pitch was played in to Jacob Shelton, who laid the ball off for the unmarked Jamie Salvidge to pick out the far bottom corner with an excellent finish.
That was the first goal Loxwood have conceded in the competition and Bexhill looked in full command for the next 10 minutes or so. Loxwood gradually started to enjoy more of the ball and territory, though, with Joe Holvey heading into Bexhill’s side-netting when unmarked at the back post from a right wing corner.
Loxwood, who scored 98 goals en route to finishing third in the league, got back on level terms in the 36th minute when striker Dean Wright got to a ball through the middle just before outcoming Bexhill goalkeeper Joe Turner and poked it past him.
Dean Stevens saw a goalbound effort deflect just wide off Loxwood defender Eddie French a minute later at the other end, while a cross from the right was just too high for Wright to direct his header on target as the first half ended even.
Loxwood dominated the second period and had three attempts at goal within four minutes of the restart. Tim Martin headed just wide from Shaun Findlay’s cross, Mark Cave’s free kick was well held by Turner and Wright pulled a left-foot shot wide of the far post following a ball over the top.
Although offering precious little going forward, Bexhill were at least doing a decent job of keeping Loxwood at bay until conceding three times in the final 15 minutes of a match played on a bobbly surface.
Loxwood hit the front for the first time in the 79th minute as Wright, who bagged a hat-trick in their 5-1 league victory at The Polegrove during November, grabbed his second with a low finish following a good ball from strike partner Martin.
Two goals in barely a minute then finished Bexhill off. Cave made it 3-1 in the 88th minute by bundling home Wright’s cross at the second attempt after his initial effort was well saved by Turner. Moments later, the ball was squared from the left for Wright to complete his treble with a crisp finish.
Bexhill: J. Turner, Earley, P. Stevens (Tudor 72), Richardson, Lewis, Catt (D. Turner 83), Salvidge, D. Stevens, Cooper, Shelton, Smith. Subs not used: Aston, Ottley, Burton.