East Sussex Football League cancel flagship cup competition

The East Sussex Football League has cancelled its flagship cup competition owing to the chronic fixture backlog facing clubs.

Monday, 16th March 2020, 1:17 pm
Updated Monday, 16th March 2020, 1:18 pm
Westfield swept past AFC Uckfield Town reserves in a 5-0 win on Saturday.

The Premier Travel Chauffeurs Challenge Cup - for teams in the Premier Division and Division One - will not be completed this season.

The decision was made at a meeting of the league's committee to discuss how to tackle the pile-up of matches last Thursday night.

Fixture secretary Kevin Bray said: "We decided that our Premier and Division One cup competition will be cancelled.

"There's just too many matches. I think there's still six or seven games before the finalists are known.

"There's no way we can get that done and the league fixtures done - it's one or the other."

Although Sedlescombe Rangers and Bexhill Town were set to meet in one semi-final, only two of the four quarter-finalists were known in the other half of the draw with two last 16 ties still to be played.

On top of that, all ten Premier Division clubs still have at least eight league matches remaining.

Four of the top five in Division One also have eight league games to go, as a result of the exceptionally wet autumn and winter.

Bray believes it's only the third time the competition has been cancelled.

In 2001, all the league cups and all divisions apart from the premier were scrapped following the foot and mouth crisis, and in 2007 the cups were halted because of bad weather.

The Wisdens Sports Challenge Cup (for teams in Division Two and Three) and Cooper's Construction Challenge Cup (for teams in Division Four and Five) are set to continue.

Bray explained: "The two junior cup competitions are at the semi-final stage so we're going to try to play the semi-finals midweek in early April and hopefully the finals in the last week of April.

"We're getting as many competitions played as we can."

The finals will not be played at The Pilot Field, home of Hastings United Football Club, this season.

A number of the league's clubs are also still involved in the Hastings & District FA, Eastbourne FA and Robertsbridge Charity Cup competitions.

Bray added: "As for the other competitions which we don't organise, we've written to them and basically said 'if you're going to continue, it will have to be played midweek'.

"One or two of them I don't think will get to a finish. Some of them are possible they can get to finals with a couple of midweek games."

The Hastings & District FA hoped to make a decision on its Intermediate Cup, Junior Cup and Lower Divisions Cup competitions this week.

Organisers of the Robertsbridge Charity Intermediate Cup, sponsored by Robertsbridge Club and the Robertsbridge Charity Junior Cup, sponsored by British Gypsum Ltd, will meet in a couple of weeks' time to discuss their options.

The East Sussex League is determined to get all of the league games completed and the season will be extended by at least a fortnight in an effort to do so.

Matches are usually finished by the first weekend in May, but this year Bray has already arranged games up to Saturday May 16 - and could go beyond that if necessary.

He said: "The league season we're continuing with. We're allowed to go to the end of May, but once you get to the end of April, you start losing grounds (due to councils taking pitches out of action and some being used for cricket in the summer).

"Teams are going to have to be accommodating and play wherever they can get a pitch."

Division Two club Wittersham still have 13 league encounters remaining, Division Three outfit Hawkhurst United II still have 12 and a few other sides are in double figures.

To help get things done, matches will be scheduled in all divisions on Easter Monday, there will be midweek evening fixtures towards the end of the season and there will be some double-headers outside of the Premier Division.

Just four matches went ahead last weekend as the vast majority of games were postponed due to pitches remaining waterlogged following all the wet weather.

Hawkhurst United moved up two places to third in the Premier Division following a 2-1 win away to eighth-placed Bexhill Town.

The Hawks are now six points behind second-placed Sedlescombe Rangers and leaders Battle Baptists, with all three teams yet to reach the midway point in their league fixtures.

The third versus first clash in Division Two between Bexhill Rovers and South Coast Athletico ended in a 1-1 draw.

Both goals came during the second half, with Connor Easton putting Athletico ahead only for Rovers to equalise through Casey Ham.

Athletico remain four points ahead of Rovers with two games in hand and are now two better off than second-placed Victoria Baptists having played a match fewer.

AFC Hollington moved ever closer to being crowned Division Four champions courtesy of a 4-1 victory at home to eighth-placed Sedlescombe Rangers III.

Mark Blanche, Bobby Bowles, Shane Friend and Aaron Salmon scored for Hollington, who have won all 13 of their league matches to date and have amassed a +58 goal difference.

Hollington are now eight points above second-placed Old Town Lions, who cannot catch them as they only have two fixtures remaining.

Third-placed Battle Baptists III are 17 points behind the runaway leaders with seven games remaining.

Hollington need just five points from their last five games to make absolutely sure of top spot.

Herstmonceux II rose to fourth in Division Five on the back of a 5-0 success against third-placed AFC Hollington II at Bexhill Road.

Herstmonceux are now just a point behind Hollington - with six games in hand - and second-placed Wadhurst United II - having played one less match.