Burgess Hill 2 Worthing 1 (26th December 2018)
Boxing Day double-header part two saw us make the short 30 mile trip from Eastbourne to Burgess Hill, albeit one that involved taking “the pretty route” due to the A27 being nose to tail traffic towards Lewes. Traffic earlier in the day had been so light that it evoked images of driving in the 1950s, making you think you should don driving gloves and a cap, and honk the horn and wave at any motorist passing in the other direction, so either the A27 is universally terrible, or there’d been an accident/roadworks up ahead.
Burgess Hill was any easy 2nd game to opt for, simply because there were no other games on within 50 miles of Eastbourne that day, excluding Brighton v Arsenal in the evening. It wasn’t a bad “choice”, even if my mate had been there before.
He’d never seen a decent crowd there – 539 would be here for this – and two new stands had been built since he’d visited. Neither would win awards for architectural merit. One was one of those basic Atcost terrace units – better than nothing, but not great – while the other was a small temporary seating unit of maybe 200 seats. It was covered, and would have offered a decent vantage point, had the roof not been held up with scaffolding, with so many obstructing poles that you’d be watching the match expecting to see some workmen laying bricks above you.
The original stand was again atcost-ish, but at least it didn’t seem to be as shallow as they normally are. Virtually nobody sat in the front row though, as they’d have struggled to see past the high pitchside barriers. Trees on two sides gave the ground a little character, that even dreary 70s housing behind one side couldn’t ruin, and the clubhouse was “cosy” but welcome for its warmth.
Visiting the newly titled Green Elephants Stadium were Worthing. Something of a shambles a year earlier, playing home games at Bognor and unable to buy a victory, a dramatic turnaround has seen their fortunes reverse, and average crowds of over 1000 now watch them.
Maybe a couple of hundred had made the trip up from Worthing, and the early stages looked good. They were having the lion’s share of the play and definitely looked the most likely side to score first against relegation-threatened Burgess Hill. Other than an early shot that clipped the outside of the post, they weren’t really creating the chances their dominance should have seen them create. In fact the home side had come closest to scoring, but a headed effort was ruled out for a foul on the keeper.
After half an hour, you could sense a touch of frustration in the Worthing play, and among their fans. “We just can’t put the ball in the net” added a Worthing fan, and with almost perfect comic timing, within seconds Worthing took the lead with an out of the blue 25 yard shot that the home keeper got nowhere near.
Everything pointed to Worthing going on to notch up a comfortable away win now, but the home side had other ideas. Kitted out in a rather fetching green & black striped shirts and white shorts combination, enough to win my rather shallow affections for the day, Burgess Hill took advantage of Worthing’s complacency to turn the game around.
First, just seven minutes later, another deep cross saw the ball headed into the Worthing net from what ought to have been a keeper’s ball. Again there were suspicions of a foul, but this one stood. No doubts about the next one though. Four minutes later a good through ball was nudged past the advancing keeper to give Burgess Hill the lead.
The second half saw more pressure from Worthing, and definitely more desperation on the pitch and on the steel terraces. Worthing certainly had opportunities, but were too often hasty in their shooting options, and the chances went. Invariably, when any club at this level starts to attract a following, it picks up a few fans with an inflated sense of entitlement, and their shouted comments did little to help their team, or the reputation of Worthing as a whole.
With the home fans desperate for points in their relegation fight, it led to a tense finish. Never more so when deep into added time, a corner routine for Worthing brought a double save from the Burgess Hill keeper at the near post, then another block on a shot going towards the same corner. This corner was headed over, and the Burgess Hill players celebrated like it was the final whistle. That duly came thirty seconds later, and the green and black cheers echoed into the dark night.