Lions roar into life to stun Saints

Action between Pagham and St Francis  Picture by Roger Smith
Action between Pagham and St Francis Picture by Roger Smith
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PAGHAM roared to life with a thumping 4-2 win against an obdurate St Francis Rangers side - their first Sussex League division-one win of the season.

The Lions welcomed back James Binfield in goal and Max Thoms to the starting XI, although his involvement was to last all of seven minutes, a bruising tackle ending his game almost before it had started. On came Ruben French as the Lions reshuffled.

The disruption didn’t affect the flow, Russell Hardwell’s excellent wing play creating an opening for the Lions that Ben Buckland’s cross couldn’t quite see finished off.

On 16 minutes, Rangers’ Thomas Barnes appeared to get an elbow in the face and a cut above his eye caused a lengthy delay.

Much to the St Francis fans’ ire, no caution was issued.

Jamie Weston ran into space for Rangers, his shot cleared, while a succession of free-kicks threatened to ruin the flow.

Aaron Walsh struck well over for Rangers before striking home the opening goal on 28 minutes.

Hardwell and Howard Neighbour had chances to test Robert Gordon in the visitors’ goal before Gordon was sent off. His lunging challenge on Scott Murfin left the referee little option but to show the red card. On came Brannon O’Neill to take over, and his first act was to save Neighbour’s penalty.

Joe Briggs equalised on 36 minutes, a slight deflection fooling O’Neill to give the Lions the lead and Briggs his first of the season.

Neighbour scored a superb second on 41 minutes, his header just reward for sustained Lions’ pressure.

French collected a yellow card for a tackle on Hawkes.

The second half opened with a Briggs raid, a shot into the side netting being followed by a strike narrowly wide of the post. The visitors scored their second on 52 minutes, a scything ball in from Charlie Pitcher turned home by Jamie Weston.

Pagham kept pressing, Murfin and Briggs both testing O’Neill.

On the hour Neighbour made it 3-2 as an inswinging corner gave Neighbour time to smack the ball past a despairing O’Neill. The Lions’ tails were up and Neighbour almost completed a hat-trick on 65 minutes, heading just wide.

Murfin made it 4-2 on 72 minutes, a low shot leaving O’Neill sprawling and the Lions roaring.

Tom Jefkins and James Ford replaced Hardwell and Briggs before Murfin and Neighbour combined well, with Neighbour heading over.

Patrick Rose planted a shot wide of the post as the visitors threatened, but Pagham were not to be denied their first win of the campaign.

PAGHAM: Binfield, Buckland, Cox, Pearce, Hawker, Bradshaw, Briggs (Jefkins 75), Thoms (French 7), Neighbour, S Murfin, Hardwell (Ford 75). Subs not used: Geoghegan, Betts.

JON ROSE