Jack Stapley regarded Westfield Football Club’s performance in Saturday’s draw against Sidlesham as one of the best during his near two-year reign as manager.
The Westies conceded a late equaliser to draw 1-1 at home to a side which beat them three times last season, including in the Macron Store Southern Combination League Division Two Challenge Cup final.
Stapley said: “Even though we drew the game, I think it was up there with the best performances we’ve had under me. It was just disappointing to concede that late goal, but they deserved it.
“They’re very much going to be up there at the end of the season and if we finish above them we’ll be in the top two. They’ve got some really good players.
“I would’ve taken it (a point) before the game, definitely. On the balance of it, it was probably a fair result. They had chances as much as we had chances.
“It was quite a physical game, with big tackles and a lot of graft, and I would’ve said we probably edged it in that respect.
“The key battle for us was (Westfield defender) Scott Ramsay against (Sidlesham forward) Tom Bayley, and he (Ramsay) marshalled him very well. I think that was testament to how we defended, with bodies thrown on the line.”
Westfield were finally back on home turf after three consecutive away fixtures and they made the perfect start. Regan Smith’s cross from the right was handled in the box by a Sidlesham defender and Scott Ramsay sent the goalkeeper the wrong way with the resulting penalty.
Although both teams tried to get the ball down on a pitch which played very well, the rest of the first half was a battle. Westfield picked up a lot of second balls in midfield, with Jake Adams particularly effective.
Westfield goalkeeper Harry Stapley made a fantastic save with his face after 25 minutes, while at the other end, Ramsay and Martyn Durrant looked dangerous from corners.
There was an altercation at half time by the changing rooms which resulted in both sets of players having to be pulled apart.
The game really opened up during the second period and although Westfield manager Jack Stapley expected Sidlesham to come out strongly, Westfield were in control during the third quarter of a good contest.
Smith looked particularly threatening and seemed to take on half of the Sidlesham team during one memorable run. He also produced a brilliant piece of skill to put Sam Winter through only for the midfielder to roll his shot into the goalkeeper’s arms.
Sidlesham came right into the game during the closing quarter and Harry Stapley pulled off a superb stop to preserve Westfield’s lead, somehow clawing the ball back from behind him.
The visitors kept pressing and with Westfield’s legs tiring, Sidlesham conjured up an equaliser. The ball was switched across to the left and Thomas Jefkins cut inside before firing into the top corner.
Although a collective effort, Jack Stapley singled out his brother and Jamie Gravett for special mention. Stapley produced five or six terrific saves and Gravett, back from injury, was equally impressive at right-back.
Westfield: Stapley; Gravett, Durrant (Dicken), Ramsay, Hurst; Winter, McGurk, Adams (McMinigal); R. Smith, C. Smith, Grindle.