Gallant Bexhill edged out by higher grade Heath

Jack McLean on the ball for Bexhill United against Haywards Heath Town. Pictures by Simon Newstead
Jack McLean on the ball for Bexhill United against Haywards Heath Town. Pictures by Simon Newstead

Bexhill United Football Club was narrowly beaten by opposition which plays two levels further up the non-league pyramid last night (Tuesday).

Southern Combination League Division One high-flyers Bexhill lost 1-0 at home to Bostik League South East Division top half outfit Haywards Heath Town in round two of the Sussex RUR Charity Cup.

Heath played for more than 70 minutes with 10 men and an outfield player in goal, and missed a second half penalty during a good contest under floodlights at The Polegrove.

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The visitors, whose starting line-up contained eight players who began their weekend league fixture, almost took an early lead, but Bexhill captain Craig McFarlane produced a superb goal-line clearance to deny Luke Robinson.

Bexhill midfielder Kyle Holden was booked for a wild challenge on former Hastings United midfielder Ansu Janneh in the first five minutes.

Wayne Giles had a deflected shot following a delightful Jack Shonk flick saved by Heath goalkeeper Joshua Heyburn and Jamie Bunn drove just wide from 25 yards as Bexhill were certainly holding their own.

Bexhill United pair Connor Robertson (left) and Kyle Holden (right) keep a close eye on Heath wide player Max Miller

Bexhill United pair Connor Robertson (left) and Kyle Holden (right) keep a close eye on Heath wide player Max Miller

Heath were reduced to 10 men in the 18th minute. Jack McLean split the away defence with a splendid pass and Bunn’s initial shot was saved by Heyburn just outside the area.

Although Bunn put the ball in the net at the third attempt, the referee had already blown for a free kick and showed Heyburn a straight red card. Heath defender Sean Roddy took over the gloves.

Roddy did well to save a shot from Giles, who had been fed by Sammy Bunn, while at the end of the half, a decent 20-yard strike by Holden as the ball bounced up flashed just over.

In between times, Bexhill left-back Nathan Lopez made an important headed challenge on Patrick Akwasi-Bronyan in a dangerous position inside the box.

Bexhill United forward Wayne Giles challenges Haywards Heath defender Kieran Rowe

Bexhill United forward Wayne Giles challenges Haywards Heath defender Kieran Rowe

Bexhill goalkeeper Dan Rose saved a Max Miller header less than two minutes into the second half.

Heath had a golden opportunity to open the scoring five minutes later when the referee awarded a penalty against Lopez for handball, but Rose made a good save diving to his right from Miller’s spot-kick.

Roddy diverted a well-struck 25-yard shot by McLean onto and over the crossbar shortly before Heath grabbed a 64th minute winner. Nathan Cooper rose highest to score with a powerful header from Miller’s right wing corner.

The game seemed to be slipping away from Bexhill, but Heath were grateful to a pair of decent late saves from Roddy to avoid having to go into extra-time.

A great strike by Holden from the edge of the box following a cleverly-worked corner was well saved by Roddy’s feet and then, in the fourth minute of added time, the stand-in stopper did well to save McLean’s shot low to his left.

Bexhill: Rose, Robertson, Lopez, McFarlane, McGuigan, Holden, Shonk, J. Bunn, Giles (Cuddington 75), S. Bunn, McLean. Subs not used: Ottley, Foster.