Sussex men’s 2nd competed excellently last Wednesday to win 3-1 on a cold December afternoon. Early goals from Dom Herron and Martin Simmoneau, plus a well-deserved late strike for striker Taylor Hope, were sufficient to defeat fellow strugglers Kingston University 3rd.

‘it was important to go out on the offensive and not invite pressure from the outset’

These two teams had last met back in October and then the match had been an epic; 5-4 it finished, but unfortunately it was defeat for Sussex. Since then, Sussex had carried on losing with four more defeats to accompany the first. Kingston had won only once more. It was critical for Sussex to put down a marker for the rest of the season against a team on such similar form. It was with manager Ian Bracken’s calming words of, “let’s not concede no more than two” that Sussex began the match. To an outsider that may have seemed a negative attitude to take, but with the team conceding heavily in recent weeks it worked well to relax the team and enjoy the game.

With two players returning from injury, centre back Alex Blackman and striker Hope, and a debut in the 2nds being made by goalkeeper Richard Lynch, it was important to go out on the offensive and not invite pressure from the onset. Callum Sager began well, knocking some excellent passes to left-winger Simmoneau who, from the outset, had the beating of the poor Kingston right back. With support from his left back, and Sager, Simmoneau was able to get to the by-line on a number of occasions before Sussex eventually took the lead. And strangely, it came from the opposite flank. After some good work from ‘Itchy’ Parkin a cross came in from the right and Hope jumped up for it with the goalkeeper. A weak clearance by the goalkeeper landed at the feet of Herron and he lashed it home. Barely ten minutes had been played and that long-awaited victory was potentially on its way.

‘Half time blew and Sussex felt hard done by.’

Sussex looked confident and dangerous. It wasn’t until ten minutes after the goal that Kingston got close enough to the Sussex goal to force the first corner of the game. It came to nothing. But it was a Sussex corner up the other end soon after that almost doubled their lead. Sager’s left foot was causing Kingston trouble in open play, but also now from set-pieces. His corner found Herron who headed it straight at the goalkeeper, only for the rebound to fall at Hope’s feet before being smothered by the brave keeper. Another near miss from Sussex – Sager dropped his shoulder in the inside right position and again his left foot proved hazardous for Kingston as he just missed the far post – was only countered by the Kingston right midfielder. He showed a few good touches and dribbles, and grew visibly frustrated as Kingston lacked any bite in attack. Blackman’s return to 2nd team action alongside Laurence Isaac was proving rather comfortable.

Sussex gave themselves an even greater comfort zone when, on the forty minute mark, Simmoneau pounced on a keeper error to tap in. Again the right side had been the assist to the goal despite Sussex playing their best football down the left. Herron was excelling at dropping off Hope to link up play, and he was critical in the build-up here. However, before they knew it, Kingston had hit back, and further still, out of nothing. Suddenly their centre forward had run down their left hand channel, and found himself in space. He played an excellent diagonal ball and his strike partner was on hand to slot away. The Sussex defence had seemingly effortlessly been bypassed and debutant Lynch, despite an assured and confident half up to now, could do nothing. Half-time blew and Sussex felt hard-done-by.

As the second half commenced centre midfielder Richard Ogoe, who’s tidy work during the first half had kept things ticking over, began to exert more control on the game. A smart one-touch move during the opening exchanges of the second half, with him at the hub of it, proved this. The second half was also characterised by a series of breakaway moves involving the Kingston forwards that seemed to spring via hopeful long balls; Lynch’s accompanying excellent goalkeeping; and a few half-chance’s squandered by Hope. Credit to him though, as his manager commented on the sidelines, it’s when a striker hasn’t got the movement that one should be worried, and at least he was in there; touch can always come through match-sharpness following an injury.

As the game appeared to be edging towards a nervy end for Sussex as Kingston applied the pressure, sub Tom Ransom crossed from the left and the ball fell to Taylor less than ten yards out. Here, instead of losing his touch or coordination in front of goal that had dogged him all day, he coolly slotted the ball home over the keeper. It was the goal that the management wanted to see. Bracken agreed after the match as he praised Hope on his return. “I’m really happy with the overall team performance, but with Taylor returning from injury today, he is someone I would single out.” At the end, the team agreed however, to award their debutant Richard Lynch with the man of the match. In a game where the scoreline appeared rather comfortable, it is perhaps strange that Lynch got it; I’m sure Kingston would agree however that he had been integral to them not drawing level during those anxious spells of the second half.

Going into the Christmas break, Sussex 2nd now find themselves off the bottom of the table and will be hopeful that they can build upon this vital victory.

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