Saltdean United v HRFC
Defeat: 6-0 (1-0 halftime)
The 2020/21 season got underway with an away fixture against Saltdean United, probably the strongest team in the division. At the end of last season we saw a few departures (farewell to Jack, Brad, Dan, G and Milad) which was offset by some new recruits (welcome Bailey, Connor, Tom, Kane and Joe P), but some late departures and injuries meant that for our first game we had a squad of only 12.
The game got underway at midday, on a dry, bright but windy day. Rivervale got off to a good start, though it took a strong challenge in the box from Joe C to prevent an early Saltdean opportunity. Both Max and Kane had half-chances from the wings, with Max coming closest to scoring 8 minutes in. Saltdean were also having chances and Joe P had to pull off a couple of good stops to keep things even. The half continued to be finely balanced until, 25 minutes in, Saltdean took a fortuitous lead from a long throw. Having taken the lead Saltdean started to press harder and to look more dangerous, but Rivervale defended strongly and kept Saltdean’s chances down to a minimum. The home team came very close to doubling their lead right at the end of the half, when a shot blocked by Joe fell kindly for them but thankfully the chance was wasted and the half ended at 1-0.
The second half got underway, with the wind now in Rivervale’s favour and the team dominated the opening minutes, with the ball barely leaving the Saltdean half. Sadly, this dominance didn’t lead to an equaliser and 10 minutes in Saltdean doubled their lead from a rapid break. This led to another strong spell from them in which they rapidly extended their lead to 4-0. It wasn’t all one way though – Kane had a fine shot saved and Max also came close. A defensive error gave Saltdean their fifth and this was capped by a sixth from a long-range effort with 10 minutes remaining. Despite the tired legs Rivervale kept hunting for a consolation and this nearly came right at the death, a lovely passing move from the back saw Kane through on goal but sadly his powerful shot was just kept out by the Saltdean keeper.
Losing 6-0 on the opening day is never good, but this was a game against a very strong team with a big squad. For the first half it was even, and we were slightly unlucky not to go in on terms. In the second half Saltdean were well on top and able to take full advantage as Rivervale players began to tire. But there were promising signs of better things to come across the whole team – Joe P handled the ball well, the back four worked well together and defended solidly in the first half. There was some nice passing football and, perhaps most encouragingly of all, both Kane and Max look like players who will regularly grace the scoresheet. Next up we are at home to Seaford Town, who have come up from Division 3. Let’s hope that the potential shown against Saltdean blossoms into something substantial next week – like some goals and some points.