Two second half goals from Lee Robinson saw Newhaven beat Rustington at Fort Road on Saturday afternoon and get their return to senior football off to the best possible start. It was the first time The Dockers had kicked a ball in Division Two since 1999, and they began the new season how they had ended the last – with a 2-0 win.
Saturday’s celebrations were not quite those of that late April afternoon in Shipley, but a win in front of the division’s highest attendance of the day went down very well indeed.
The scoreline was goalless at half-time, despite chances for both sides. Newhaven upped their game in the second half and Robinson, coming in to the match with 6 goals in 7 pre-season games, broke the deadlock with an unorthodox finish. Rustington pushed for an equaliser but Robinson got the clincher from the tightest of angles late on.
Four players were making their full debuts for the club. Freddie Beale, having impressed in the friendly against Eastbourne Borough, started at right back. Louis Brown, previously at Ringmer, was at left back, and Jason Edwards, part of the Saltdean team that contested the league with Newhaven last season, was in front of him on the left wing. The other player making his debut was Richie Watton, also a Saltdean player last year. He was the lone striker.
The rest of the team saw Graham Leach return in goal, having missed the end of last season with a shoulder injury. Ryan Knight joined his uncle Barry in the centre of defence and, in front of them, Daniel Murray and newly appointed captain Sean Breach were patrolling the midfield. Mark Probert was ahead of them and Robinson was out on the right.
After what has been a pretty lousy summer, in terms of the weather, Fort Road was bathed in sunshine for the opening game of the season. The covered seating in the stand was opened for use after a couple of months of hard work by the committee.
The first half was relatively even, with Newhaven – playing in red and yellow stripes – edging it on chances created. Robinson got his shot wrong when he was sent in down the right hand side, a bad connection ended with Andy McCarthy saving comfortably.
Watton was next to test McCarthy – he went through one-on-one but again he could only fire his shot straight at the tall goalkeeper. Up the other end Chris and Steve Kirkham were keeping Leach and the Newhaven defence on their toes. Leach was at his best to turn a well hit shot from Andy Boxall around the post and also got a touch on a Kirkham shot from an angle.
Probert also had a good chance, but he fired over the crossbar from close range, after some neat play around the visitors penalty box and a couple of close range stops from McCarthy.
Rustington did get the ball in the back of the net, at the end of the first half, but the effort was ruled out for offside. Somehow the score remained 0-0 at half-time.
Newhaven upped the tempo in the second half and missed a number of good opportunities. Ryan Knight connected well with a Murray free-kick but his header flew over the bar. Knight was again in the action soon after. Another Murray free-kick was met by Knight, who had jumped with McCarthy, the ball dropped behind both and Knight reacted quickest but was leaning back and fired his attempt against the crossbar.
It was looking like it might be ‘one of those days’ for Newhaven, with chances coming and going. But with 64 minutes played the deadlock was finally broken.
Probert jumped high to head on a ball in behind the Rustington defence. Robinson had made a run from outside to in and found himself through on goal. Robinson hit six goals in pre-season, but got caught in two minds and it looked like the chance may of disappeared when a defender closed in. However, Robinson managed to poke out a foot and wrong foot McCarthy as the ball bounced in to the goal.
The goal lifted a weight off the Newhaven players but they had to be wary of a Rustington fight back. The visitors nearly equalised when Kirkham beat the offside trap, but he could only drag his shot wide of Leach’s near post.
Probert dragged a shot wide after a cut-back, and Boxall had a decent looping effort saved by Leach.
With time running down, and Rustington forcing a couple of corners, Newhaven got the all important second goal. Beale played a pass to Robinson down the right and the pacey attacker knocked it past the left-back. Robinson entered the area from almost on the goal-line and advanced towards goal. Nobody closed him down and with McCarthy expecting a cut-back Robinson just rolled the ball in to the empty goal. Game over.
It was an excellent win for The Dockers and they travel to Storrington on Saturday (18th August).
Graham Leach, Freddie Beale, Barry Knight, Ryan Knight, Louis Brown (Luke Duchossoy), Lee Robinson, Sean Breach (c), Daniel Murray, Mark Probert (Gary Holmes), Jason Edwards, Richie Watton.