Southern Combination Walking Football League
Old Bexhillians 5 Hastings Hornets 2
Riddler’s dinked lay-off from an Inky Penn pass settled on Mattie’s instep like a butterfly and he swung without breaking his stride. The ball flew at the goal like a shell and Andy Poulter heard his net sizzle behind him. The move had formed a triangle of Euclidean regularity and wowed all who were lucky enough to see it.
And it brought the score to 2-1 being the high point of a 5-2 loss that teemed with positives for the visitors. As captain, Inky Penn said: “This doesn’t feel like a 5-2 game boys!” And it certainly didn’t.
Expectation was rife in the college car park when news broke re. the Bexhill goalkeeper. Only two glovemen (me and Rickie) had known that Howard would not be between the sticks today. What would be the outcome? Would Longshanks and Riddler net more than a Russian trawler off Rye Harbour or would the new keeper defy us?
It was the hosts who took an early lead when totemic (shamanic?) striker Alan Osman jinked into a pocket of space and smashed a right-footed shot past The Cat. 1-0. Straight after the restart, The Cat saved well from distance with a trademark double-fisted punch to deny Sedlescombe Nick. And our Churchill-Henry VIII stopper did well soon after when he held his nerve, refused to be nutmegged by Cookie and saved impressively with his shins.
A flurry of activity saw Osman evade Inky (marking the Bexhill front man must have been the hardest job on the park) only to hit The Cat’s crossbar just as Jesse blew for running. Legendary Roger was impressing with his distribution after keeper roll-outs and covering hectares as attacks developed down the right flank.
Mattie began to prove a threat, often being fed by Chairman. Longshanks must have been less than pleased to be bundled off the ball when well placed on the right edge of Poulter’s area. After blasting a shot high, Cookie headed for the touchline. The former Hastings player had posed a constant threat but not been allowed to run riot.
Slightly against the flow of play (Hastings had gathered themselves well) Sedlescombe Nick beat The Cat low to his right. 2-0. And it was Nick who was the threat now; soon after he beat both Chairs and Posh to shoot from an acute angle with The Cat standing firm to parry away. Pete Freeman should really have put away an easy chance for the home side from the resulting corner but blasted high. Chairman then got in on the act of testing Poulter from distance and forced him to save low.
Inky Penn was doing two things – threading accurate long balls through to Mattie and shooting regularly, sometimes from within his own half. And why not? It turns out that Poulter is a highly competent keeper but I’m willing to bet he was nervous having been thrust into this derby at the eleventh hour.
Sensibly taking some risks, the Hornets put Riddler on very high with Mattie also up front but in a more fluid role. Inky Penn was now blocking frequent Osman shots before they got to The Cat. Back on, Cookie fed Nick who shot just wide.
Then came the Hornets’ Wonder Goal described above. 2-1. Hastings were suddenly in the ascendancy, with Bexhill defenders falling away from our forwards like cabinet ministers from Suella Braverman.
Cookie got a second burst of energy and edged past Mattie on the left flank to send a lateral pass across to Sedlescombe Nick. He was well placed and a clean side-foot finish gave The Cat little chance. 3-1.
Heads didn’t go down and Inky began finding Riddler with incisive long passes through the middle channel. The game was now stretched and a breakaway move down the right saw Osman beat The Cat at his near post. 4-1.
On a foray upfield, Wondie fed a sweet pass to Cookie who shot against The Cat’s left upright. Repeated running infringements eventually prompted Jesse to sideline Osman for two minutes. But on his return, he soon found himself in a one-on-one with The Cat who advanced to the edge of his area, refused to blink but lost out to a deft side-footed shot. 5 – 1.
Hornets were being outplayed admittedly but certainly not out-classed and there was gas left in the collective tank. Riddler had been causing problems and he shrugged off a marker to feed Mattie precisely. Harrogate’s best ever export bagged his brace with a crisp shot that beat Poulter at medium height to his left. 5 – 2. In some of the last action of the match, Poulter came to the edge of the area to smother-block from Riddler brilliantly. Jesse blew up soon after in a game that he had controlled well and which proved good tempered if highly competitive.
Wondie was trim in his beige strip and looked happy. There is evidence that his weight varies inversely with how many holidays he is having. He worked well with Perry Puddefoot at the back. Who would grudge Wondie this reincarnation?
It was a Hornets display with far more endeavour and spirit than the Burwash defeat and bodes well. We should remember that the Hornets won’t come up against a player of Alan Osman’s quality every week. Our noisy neighbours are the only other club in the league who can field two teams so we can regard ourselves as having strength in depth. But not on the support front it seems. That first wonderful team goal deserved to be seen live by more supporters than me, Colin, Jimbo, Mrs Riddler and Reese.
MoM Hornets: Mattie. (Commendation for Leg Rog.) MoM Bexhill: Alan Osman.