“I don’t know what you’re complaining about, you’re in the lead …”
You know it’s been an afternoon when the home side’s centre forward not being aware scores are level rather than (as he thought) showing a lead for the opposition isn’t the most interesting memory. It was 1-1 at the time of the chat with a vexed Vardeanians fan but the more telling score was 11-9, as Bexhill had a full compliment of men on the pitch but their visitors from Brighton were down by 2. That score finished 11-8 and the cold facts will show that Bexhill managed to complete the game ahead on goals 2-1. I doubt a single person on the away coach thought any of it was remotely fair.
AFC Vardeanians did not want the game to go ahead. The Polegrove pitch was firm to frozen where the stand had cast its shadow, heavy elsewhere. Their bench made repeated attempts to show that it was too dangerous to proceed. At times they could have put themselves forward for the Turner Prize such was their commitment to performance art of the “Man Confronting His Destiny on a Frosty Sussex Field” type. Maybe if they’d converted their early penalty instead of firing it wide they might have been happier.
Bexhill took the lead around the 25 minute mark, ten minutes after that missed penalty. It was 1-1 at the break though as Varndeanians more than matched their hosts. They may have complained but they were definitely in the mix. Very shortly after the break it all went wrong. Jamie Cradock committed a series of fouls, two of which saw him get a yellow card. The protests from his teammates led the ref summoning captain Joe McTiffen and, from that conversation, another red was produced. Who knows what was said that led to that but its impact on the game was decisive. Varndeanians organised themselves ferociously. A nine man moving defensive unit determined only to repel, and not to create. Bexhill struggled to work their way round it.
The bar was rattled and there were good saves but it looked like the visitors’ hard work was going to be rewarded with a point but a final scrappy bout of pinball saw a goal for Kev Barden. It was too much for some. The linesman who had frequently flagged for offsides was now accused of being bent. One player went far too far as the match restarted – I caught a bit of it, I’d have sent him off – and the ref wasn’t left with much option. Vardeanians ended the match with eight men and, let’s assume, a growing sense of bitterness. Their defensive shift was one of the best I’ve seen in a long time and deserved more than they got.
I brought along the camera. Some photos are here.