HRFV v Eastbourne United
Defeat: 1-3 (1-1 halftime)
In what was to prove to be the final competitive game of 2020, Hove Rivervale faced Eastbourne United in a 1100 kick off. Eastbourne are a strong side and Rivervale were up against them with only one sub on the bench (and this could have been worse but for the return of Craig in goal). The game kicked off in time and the opening minutes saw Eastbourne come close, first a header just wide and then two strong runs into the area, the first ended by a strong challenge from Roddy and the second by a good recovery tackle from Finn. After the initial onslaught Rivervale began to get back into the game and 10 minutes in almost took the lead when Joel and Kane combined to put Max through, whose goal-bound shot was pushed onto the post. Rivervale came close from the resulting corner but then had to endure a spell of heavy pressure from Eastbourne. But some stout defending, with almost everyone behind the ball, kept the score even and, 23 minutes in, a rapid Rivervale counterattack saw Kane volley home after Max’s shot struck the post. The Eastbourne pressure ramped up further and they had several chances, but again strong defending and some timely interventions by Craig kept it at 1-0. Up front, Max and Kane were looking dangerous, keeping the Eastbourne defenders on their toes, and almost extending the lead in the 34th minute when Kane got on the end of a cross from Max. A few moments later Eastbourne looked certain to score but were stopped by another excellent challenge from Roddy. This great piece of defending was followed by our first penalty shout of the day, a rapid counterattack saw Max being brought down in the Eastbourne box. Nothing was given and, just when it seemed that we would hold our lead into the break, Eastbourne got an equaliser on the break. The last couple of minutes saw a Rivervale free kick headed narrowly wide by Henry and Eastbourne almost getting a second, but the score remained 1-all when the whistle blew for half time.
The second have got off to a frenetic start, with Eastbourne having more of the ball, but Rivervale continuing to defend well and look for chances to release Max and Kane. Around 10 minutes in a period of sustained pressure saw Eastbourne win a series of corners and it took some heroic defending to keep them a bay. Despite the pressure Rivervale almost took the lead again, a rapid counter saw Max brought down in the box (again no penalty), but this time the ball fell to Kane whose shot was well saved by the Eastbourne keeper. And a few minutes later came our third (and possible fourth) penalty shout. First Kane was brought down by the keeper (nothing given), then managed to cross to Max from the ground, who’s on target shot was clearly blocked by defenders raised arm (nothing given). The ball finally ended up out of play as Hassan headed the deflected ball just wide. Sadly, from the goal kick Eastbourne took the lead with a rapid counterattack with about 15 minutes remaining. A good block from Craig and another fine tackle from Roddy kept the scores tight (and following a short break in play due to an injured Eastbourne player and a defective net) Rivervale had another chance with Kane almost through on goal. The last few minutes saw a great save from Craig and, unfortunately, the ball somehow going in from the resulting corner to make 1-3. Despite the blow, the Rivervale players kept hunting for a consolation goal, but it was not to be, and the game ended 1-3.
Winning is nice, but there are some games you don’t mind the result too much because the performance was so good. With a small squad up against a very strong team this could have been a game to forget. Instead, it is one that will be remembered for some magnificent defending, some great counterattacks and the 3-4 legitimate penalty shouts that were ignored. Oh, and one of the nets falling off mid-game. This was a great, whole-team team performance and the player’s desire and commitment to getting a good result showed for every second of the 80 minutes. And it wasn’t just us who thought that – the Eastbourne coaches were full of praise for our well organised and fully committed defence and our threat on the counterattack. So, a good way to end a strange, disjointed campaign with only 4 games played since the opener on 20 September. And encouraging for our next fixture on 17 January at home to our friends West Hove (who lost 2-7 to Eastbourne United the weekend after we played them). Should be spicy.