Newhaven Reserves made the short trip to Piddinghoe Avenue on Saturday to play high flying Peacehaven Reserves.
Looking to put an end to a poor run of results, this looked the most unlikely of games to see a change in fortunes. However, a brace from Simon Blaxall in the second half, sandwiching a Clive Snell penalty for the hosts, gave the Dockers a fantastic and well deserved victory.
The Dockers were missing regulars Joe Mctiffen (holiday), Josh Tomkins (transferred to Saltdean) and Harrison Cullinane (called up to the first team) therefore Tom Mason and Matt Harrison had to fill in the full back positions, Tom O’Donnell made a comeback in the midfield after nearly 2 and half months out and Harry Millar returned on the wing.
Phil Avenell also returned to the squad and took a place on the bench alongside the returning Simon Blaxall after a holiday. Jack Webber and youth team player Ian Robinson also occupied the substitute places.
The changes didn’t stop there as within a minute of the start Damien Lambert fell awkwardly under a heavy challenge and could not continue with a groin injury. Simon Blaxall replaced Lambert in attack.
Both sides were playing attractive football in the opening exchanges and O’Donnell had a very early chance when he ghosted in at the far post but guided the ball into the keepers hands.
Newhaven grew in confidence as the half progressed and played some neat possession football. They restricted Peacehaven to long shots that failed to test Harry Stewart.
On twenty minutes a fine move from the Dockers started with Tom Mason at right back. The ball was smartly passed into midfield and across the pitch using nearly all 10 outfield players before Blaxall was played through and thumped a left foot shot across the keeper from 20 yards only to see it rebound off the post and despite a challenge from the onrushing O’Donnell the keeper managed to smother the loose ball.
Peacehaven begun to apply pressure after this wake up call and the Dockers defence were called into action with Stewart commanding his area and making decisive punches from dangerous crosses. Harry Millar and Tom Stevenson were looking a threat on the break and Millar danced past the full back just before half time but could not beat the keeper. (H/T 0-0).
The second half continued in the same manner. Holmes and O’Donnell were having a fine battle against Wiltshire and Snell in the middle of the park and Duchossoy and Blaxall were beginning to get the better of the Peacehaven centre backs.
Tom Stevenson had a fine effort just sail wide early in the half and Millar also had a good opportunity but dragged his shot wide. O’Donnell had a rising left foot shot over the bar and Calum Burnett made a fine last ditch tackle to keep the game goalless.
A couple of minutes later the deadlock was broken on the hour. A long throw in from Matt Harrison was flicked on in the penalty area and dropped perfectly for Blaxall just inside the area and he cracked an unstoppable left foot volley into the back of the net to give the Dockers the lead (0-1).
Peacehaven responded and pushed high up the pitch forcing corners from both sides which were dealt with by the Dockers who threw everything in the way. However it wasn’t long before the equaliser came.
A ball over the top found the onrushing winger find his way into the box. Out came Stewart and as the winger went away from goal he tumbled over the challenge and the referee pointed to the spot. Clive Snell made no mistake with the penalty (1-1).
The Dockers immediately bounced back and continued to play free flowing attacking football and with 15 minutes left on the clock Harry Millar beat the left full back and crossed for Blaxall who found himself unmarked in the penalty area and he sent a right foot finish into the corner of the net to regain the lead (1-2).
The tiring Tom O’Donnell was replaced soon after by Phil Avenell as the Dockers looked to cling on to a much needed win. Skipper Tom Mason then had to make way after a heavy challenge and Jack Webber came on for the last five minutes which meant Tom Stevenson had to fill-in in an uncustomary right back role.
With the home side throwing everything forward gaps were appearing all over the pitch and Newhaven had chances to seal the game in the dying moments when Duchossoy, Millar and Blaxall all had chances. However the missed chances didn’t matter as the referee signalled the end of the game which brought an end to a wretched run for the Reserves.
A fine match and an excellent performance from all those involved.
Harry Stewart, Tom Mason (c) (Jack Webber), Matt Harrison, Barry Knight, Calum Burnett, Tom O’Donnell (Phil Avenell), Gary Holmes, Tom Stevenson, Harry Millar, Luke Duchossoy, Damien Lambert (Simon Blaxall). Unused sub: Ian Robinson