Bexhill United’s footballers came from behind with 10 men to earn a terrific point away to table-topping opposition on Saturday.
Kenny Butchers scored an 85th minute equaliser as Bexhill held Macron Store Southern Combination Football League Division One leaders East Preston to a 2-2 draw.
Bexhill joint manager Nigel Kane said: “It was a very satisfying point because we went down there with a threadbare squad.
“I don’t think many people gave us much of a chance. I think the bookmakers would’ve priced us up at about 20/1 to win the game and about 8/1 to draw.”
The first half was very even in terms of attempts at goal, but Bexhill opened the scoring. Drew Greenall crossed the ball in and Jacob Shelton, who was outstanding in the opening period on his return to the side, scored with a diving header as the ball bounced up.
Nathan Lopez and Greenall also had shots on target, and Kane felt Bexhill were full value for their lead, but they conceded twice in the space of three minutes towards the end of the half - once from a corner and once from a free kick - to trail 2-1 at the break.
“Probably for the first time this season I gave them a real dressing down at half time because we didn’t deserve to be 2-1 down; we played well enough to take a 1-0 lead in to the break,” continued Kane.
“There were some home truths spoken at half time. I suggested we needed to defend better in the second half and in fairness the players responded very well.”
Bexhill went down to 10 men in the second half when Gordon Cuddington was shown a second yellow card, for slamming the ball into the turf in frustration after the referee, not for the first time, awarded a free kick in his favour instead of playing the advantage.
“Normally I wouldn’t condone it at all, but I completely understand his frustration and I felt the referee could’ve taken that into consideration,” Kane said.
“In hindsight it probably galvanised us. We did feel harshly done by and everybody else on the pitch raised their level a bit.”
As you would expect, it became backs-to-the-wall for Bexhill after that and goalkeeper Dan Rose made some vital saves during a superb second half display, one of which even drew applause from the home bench.
Bexhill, who switched to a 3-5-1 formation, still created chances, though, and levelled things up against the run of play. Butchers made his way forward and fired a sweetly-struck shot into the roof of the net, becoming Bexhill’s 17th different scorer this season.
“It was fantastic for Kenny to get the equaliser,” Kane added. “He’s been on the periphery of things and he came back into the side after spending the whole game on the bench against Billingshurst (the previous weekend). He had a bit of an iffy first five minutes, but then got on top of his game and was rewarded with a cracking goal.”
Bexhill: Rose; Butchers, Robertson, McFarlane, Ottley; Giles, Cuddington, Lopez (Sully), Wheeler; Shelton, Greenall.
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