Old Loughtonians increased the pressure on Brighton and Hove's tenuous grip on a top-six place in the MHL Conference East by beating them 3-1 on Sunday as the visitors finally returned to action after the mid-season break.
A goal from Joe Naughalty, his 11th of the season, was all Brighton had to show from a hard fought match as the improving home team won for the second successive week to close the gap to their opponents to one point.
After one win in seven games, Brighton have the chance to get their season back on track with a double header at Blatchington Mill this weekend, meeting bottom side City of Peterborough on Saturday (February 16) at 2pm and then third-placed Southgate on Sunday (February 17) at 1pm.
Old Loughts' opening goal on Sunday came after Ron Bloss broke up a Brighton attack and the ball was moved through to midfielder Rory Coltham, who hammered a reverse stick shot into the net after 26 minutes to give the hosts a half time lead.
The second half was similar, both sides working hard to find the vital next goal. Old Loughts’ extra intensity paid off with a 39th minute short corner deflecting to Andrew McGregor, who finished in composed fashion.
Brighton responded within two minutes, a fast direct break finding leading scorer Naughalty, who finished well. But three minutes later Maciej Janiszewski was brought down in the D, winning a penalty flick that Coltham dispatched for his second goal.
Both sides pushed for further goals and the last 10 minutes saw two Old Loughts players yellow carded, putting them down to nine players, but more resolute defending ensured their second win in 2019. Former Brighton defender Will Smith missed the game through injury.
Runaway leaders Old Georgians smashed ten goals past Teddington while Southgate beat Peterborough 4-1. Oxted won by the odd goal in five at Canterbury and Richmond continued their rise by thumping Cambridge City 6-2. Brighton remain fifth in the league.
On a happier note, Brighton Vets are through to the quarter-finals of the national tier 2 championship after a convincing 5-0 win on Sunday over a gallant Army Vets outfit at Blatchington.
And to further improve captain Carlo Missirian’s spirits Brighton have been drawn at home in the next round to Old Cranleighans on Sunday March 3.
"Very grateful to the Army for fulfilling the fixture as many would have forfeited the game with only nine players,” Carlo reports. “They unfortunately had several dropouts last night and this morning. They ran their socks off and never gave in. I am sure with a full squad it would have been a very tough game.
"An unusual game but we still needed to be disciplined and began extremely well with some high tempo hockey and strong transfer of the ball. Frustratingly we could not find the net but eventually scored after a great short corner routine with Gaz passing to Brownie from the left to the far post.
"Although we always had the numerical advantage and maintained possession we really needed a second goal before half time. The second breakthrough came when Gaz picked up the ball in the middle of the park and drove the ball into the D and Pietro with a deft touch scored the second.
Their keeper made some great saves to keep them in the game. 2-0 at half time was still not a great lead but early in the second half Neel went on a mazy run and after a great one-two with Luke finished with a Houdini-style finish.
Luke scored the fourth with a final short corner strike by Carlo to make it a well deserved 5-0.
"We had several more chances in both halves and could have converted far more but it was a thoroughly professional display by a team that is blessed with some BHHC all stars from the distant past some further back than others! With Russ, Ant, Doc and Gray missing from today’s squad it was a great effort and bodes well for the quarter-finals on March 3.
"MoM was the whole army team for playing with nine men, running the whole game and never giving up! DoD was Kev, passing to himself from a hit five yards out, and conceding a 16 for putting it straight into the D. Genius!
"A packed crowd for one of our games and many thanks to all that supported us and - of course - Jenny for such a great hot tea.”
The previous day the 4s - who form the bulk of the veterans team - rested a few regulars and went down 5-2 to their clubmates, the 3s, in Sussex League division one.
Carlo was appreciative of the help the 4s received, however not enough to stop the 4s taking the lead.
“Firstly I would like to thank Andy Bromley for all his help with selection and finding players,” said Carlo. “We had a vets game on Sunday so players and selection was very sparse.
“As always inter-club encounters are feisty and passionate and this game was no different. Some very good early exchanges from both teams but the 4s had the slight ascendancy.
“One of the new recruits from the lower leagues, the galloping Frenchman Gaeton, cantered down the right wing and crossed to Davros who slotted in neatly. The 4s then made a couple of errors and the 3s converted a couple of great goals. In this period Andy was playing in goal and made some great saves.
In the second half the 4s started very strongly and won several shorts but could not convert any of them. The 3s then pressed and played some really great hockey and added to the lead to make it 3-1.
“Really proud of the 4s as we never gave up and won a penalty flick that Kenny converted but Andy nearly saved. Really felt that we had done enough in the second half to get back in the game but the 3s then scored a couple of excellent team and breakaway goals. The scoreline was a bit flattering but the better team won the day.
“DoD was Wilmott for calling a 3s young player playing for us a cheat.”
In the Kent/Sussex Regional League, Brighton 2s suffered a 4-0 home defeat to second-placed Old Bordenians, a result which leaves them three points adrift at the bottom of the table. They travel to one of two sides immediately above them, Maidstone 1, on Saturday.
The 5s' good run of results in division two came to a halt at Hailsham 2s, where they lost 4-2, while the 6s went down 5-2 at home against a good Worthing team in division three.
“Flashes of brilliance and some good individual performances weren't enough to keep the visitors at bay,” reports Kevin Mould. “Worthing chalked two up by half time and were not concerned with the competition being offered.
“Moments into the second half saw Tillman Froehlic slot home from a tight angle after a fizzed pass into the D found the end of his stick. But Worthing pulled their socks up and put another three away over the next 30 minutes while we could only muster one more; a fiery strike from a short corner courtesy of Ben Simon.
“They were too good. We unfortunately weren't. Some good things to build on.”
Another inter-club game in division four featured the 7s against the 8s with honours even in a 2-2 draw.
“The 8s started the game on the front foot and dominated the early exchanges; however they fell behind to a PC scored by Sam Townsend’” reports 8s skipper Matt Sale. “The half finnished 1-0 to the 7s. The 8s got a deserved equaliser when Laurie Meldon finnished well after capitalising on a defensive error.
“However again the 7s regained the lead with a Gary Revel-Chion PC strike. The 8s pushed for an equaliser and were rewarded when Rob "Dreadful" Threlfall turned his marker and fired a rocket into the net. Cue shock on the faces of both sides!
“The 7s then had a flurry of PCs with Andy Read pulling off a superb goal line clearance. An entertaining game and a great team performance from the 8s, who played some of their best hockey of the season.”
Updated 21:16 - 20 Mar 2019 by Atul Patel