Little Common produced a five-star performance to clinch the runners-up spot in Macron Store Southern Combination Football League Division One.
Common went into their final match of the season needing to win by three goals to pip East Preston on goal difference and they did even better than that by winning 5-0 away to Midhurst & Easebourne yesterday (Saturday).
Lewis Hole led the rout with his fourth hat-trick of the campaign (and third in two months), and there was one apiece for Wes Tate and Jamie Crone as Common brought up a century of league goals for 2016/17.
The Commoners were missing Steve Mote and Bradley Pritchard from the Easter Monday win over Bexhill United so Dan Cruikshank and Crone returned to an otherwise unchanged starting line-up.
Common began the match on the front foot and almost took a freak lead within the opening five minutes when the home goalkeeper almost palmed the ball into his own net following a Jared Lusted cross.
The opening goal, which Common had been threatening, arrived in the 23rd minute. Harry Saville’s corner was palmed into the path of Hole, who made no mistake from close range.
Common didn’t have to wait long for the second goal. Tate made it 2-0 after half-an-hour when Russell Eldridge’s free kick found him completely unmarked, allowing him to drive towards goal before firing home.
Midhurst went on to enjoy their best spell of the match and the Commoners had goalkeeper Matt Crutwell to thank for preserving their two-goal lead. Cruttwell firstly produced a splendid left-handed save before making two further blocks when the hosts looked certain to score.
At the other end, Tate saw a delicate lob land on the roof of the net before the ball bounced unkindly for Hole when well placed in the area.
The Commoners did get a third on the stroke of half time. Tate’s pass released Crone, who steadied himself before seeing his shot nestle in the back of the net.
Despite leading 3-0 at the break, the Commoners were aware that a goal for the hosts would see them slip back into third place.
The nerves were eased in the 53rd minute, though, when some great play from Tate saw him deliver the ball across the goal for Hole to head home.
The hosts rarely threatened the Common goal after that, although Cruttwell was on hand to save a far post effort with his feet.
Common continued to look to add to their tally and Tate hit the crossbar before substitute Rosh Wells saw an effort fizz across goal.
The fifth goal came in the 81st minute when Adam Smith made a super run and poked the ball through to Hole, who found himself with time and space to slot home for his treble.
Common: Cruttwell, Bristow, Walker (McEniry), Cruikshank, Eldridge, Smith, Tate, Hole, Crone (Tewkesbury), Lusted (Wells).
Southern Combination League Division One top 10 final standings (all played 34 matches): 1 Saltdean United 79pts (+54 goal difference), 2 LITTLE COMMON 75 (+54), 3 East Preston 75 (+52), 4 Mile Oak 69 (+36), 5 Lingfield 63 (+22), 6 Steyning Town 60 (+17), 7 Selsey 53 (+13), 8 Langney Wanderers 51 (+5), 9 Midhurst & Easebourne 44 (-6), 10 BEXHILL UNITED 44 (-8).
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