Battle for West Sussex League title is hotting up
The West Sussex League premier-division title race is reaching its conclusion - and Nyetimber Pirates remain the strong favourites to land the crown with games in hand. But Lavant are pushing them all the way.
Here are the latest reports from both camps, plus a gallery of pictures, above, from the tussle between the two rivals on Easter Saturday.
Get all the local football in the Observer, out on Thursday morning.
Lavant 1 Nyetimber Pirates 1
WSFL premier division
The spoils were shared when leaders Nyetimber Pirates visited second-placed Lavant – meaning Lavant’s hopes of snatching the title away from the Pirates are not quite over yet.
The Pirates arrived at Raughmere Park with an unbeaten league record, having dropped only two points all season.
Lavant, missing some seven regulars, handed Jordan Lillywhite and Barry McCoy their first appearances for the first team at the heart of the defence and had only manager Stuart Eastwood on the bench.
Lavant couldn’t have hoped for better start, James Sandford heading home a Charles Mclaren corner to the delight of the home supporters.
There’s a saying in football that sometimes you can score too early – and this was evident on this occasion.
Lavant immediately started to sit deep and invite the Pirates on to them but the back four, with McCoy and Lillywhite at the heart, dealt well with the visitors’ direct approach.
Lavant still looked dangerous on the counter with Sandford working the channels well and preying on a lack of mobility of the centre-halves who, like the home side, were dealing with anything in the air with ease.
Lavant looked to hold out to half-time and take a valuable lead into the break but Nyetimber managed to get themselves back on levels terms with just minutes to play.
James Fallick levelled when his half-volley from the edge of the box found the bottom corner, leaving Lavant keeper Ash Court rooted to the spot.
The second half wasn’t much of a spectacle, despite plenty of endeavour and attempts to get things going. Nyetimber managed to prise the Lavant back-line open a few times only to be thwarted by Court and when he was beaten, McCoy was on hand to clear off the line.
Pirates’ best chance of the second half came when Mike Hamm’s header rattled the crossbar from a corner but bounced clear to safety.
The game saw influential Pirates midfielders Andy Cox and Derek Chester both limp off with injuries and its unsure if the pair will return this season.
Lavant had a golden opportunity in the dying stages to steal the spoils as last week’s hero Peter Caveney was set through on goal – but he skewed his effort wide.
Lavant: Court, Augustus, McCoy, Lillywhite, Wright, Stevens, Mclaren, Hawkes, Caveney, Cieszynski, Sandford. Sub: Eastwood.
Pirates: Pye, Williamson, Pasterfield, D Towers, Hamm, Urquhart, Haga Hammond, Chester, Cox, Fallick, S Towers. Subs: Linkhorn, Frangou, Horn, Angell, Westbrook.
Petworth 1 Pirates 4
WSFL premier division
Pirates put their Centenary Cup disappointment behind them as they sailed past Petworth last week.
They went into the game with only the league to play for after being knocked out of the cup by Angmering.
Boss Ted Griffin made three changes from the weekend’s side with Karl Westbrook, Louis Haga-Hammond and Mike Hamm in the line-up.
Pirates looked comfortable throughout the first half and went into the break 2-0 ahead, the goals coming from Scott Towers and Westbrook.
Despite the bright first half the Looters looked out of sorts as the second half kicked off and quickly found Petworth back in the game after some sloppy defending.
Petworth continued to press and it looked like they would equalise, but they couldn’t seem to find the finish.
Pirates captain Michael Frangou returned following a long lay-off and he put the game to bed with ten minutes to go – seconds after coming from the bench.
Nathan Stonelake made it 4-1 in injury time after tapping in Danny Towers’ effort to extend the Looters unbeaten league run to 22 matches.
Pirates: Pye, Williamson, Linkhorn, Horn, Hamm, Chester, Haga Hammond, Urquhart, Westbrook, S Towers, Fallick. Subs – Stonelake , D Towers, Pasterfield, Angell, Frangou.
Hunston 3 Pirates 3
WSFL premier division
Pirates managed to cling on to their unbeaten league run thanks to a last-gasp strike from Danny Towers that saw them claim a point at Hunston.
Manager Ted Griffin claimed his side had showed ‘some real bottle’ after his side went into their fourth game in eight days without regulars Andy Cox, Phil Turner, Del Chester, Louis Haga Hammond, James Fallick and Curtis Horn.
Griffin brought Aaron Millar and Shaun Maskell into the squad from the reserves with Nathan Stonelake getting his first start for the first team.
Pirates’ injury woes didn’t improve when Scott Towers was carried off midway through the first half with a hamstring injury which has ruled him out of the title-race run-in.
Despite the changes the Reds looked sharp and started brightly with Stonelake causing problems for the Hunston backline.
The Pirates were awarded a penalty early on after a Hunston handball but captain Michael Frangou’s spot-kick was saved as well as his rebounded effort.
This deflated the side and Hunston took the lead on 30 minutes after a mix-up at the back.
Nyetimber pulled one back just before the break when Danny Towers caught the home side off-guard when a quick free kick found its way into an empty net with the Hunston keeper stranded on his post.
The Hares came out of the traps quickly after the interval.
Ash Harper grabbed a quick double for the home side and looked to have won it for the much-improved Hunston, who were unbeaten in six games.
It looked like the Pirates were dead and buried but they managed to pull one back with ten minutes to go when Mike Hamm’s shot across the box was turned in by Frangou.
It looked like the 22-game unbeaten league run which stretches back to April 2 last year was over when referee Mark Waller indicated 30 seconds left. But a long ball found marauding centre-half Danny Towers and his hopeful effort from outside the box deflected in near the far post, sending the Pirates’ bench into raptures.
The draw leaves the Pirates with four games to secure the title.
Griffin said: “We showed some real bottle – most sides would have given up after going 3-1 down. I think it shows how much this means to the boys.
“We’ve got some injury problems at the moment but were still fighting and were lucky we’ve got so many good players in the squad. Fair play to Hunston, they have come a lot in the last few weeks and we were probably a bit lucky at the end but that’s football.”
The Pirates travel to West Chiltington on Saturday with Lavant their visitors next Tuesday.
Pirates: Pye, Williamson, Linkhorn, Hamm, D Towers, Urquhart, Pasterfield, Frangou, S Towers, Westbrook, Stonelake. Subs: S Maskell, Millar, Angell, Fallick.
Henfield 2 Lavant 3
WSFL premier division
Lavant travelled to Henfield on easter Monday for their second fixture in three days and came away with the three points.
On the bobbly pitch, Lavant broke the deadlock on the half-hour, Peter Caveney coming in off the right to be played in and finishing well from the edge of the area.
The doubled their lead within minutes of the restart in the second half, Caveney turning provider and crossing for Dan Baker to volley in from the penalty spot.
Lavant went down a gear thinking the job was done and let Henfield back into the game. Caveney conceded a free-kick just outside the area. The initial kick was blocked by the wall but the ball fell kindly to a Henfield player, who emphatically volleyed into the roof of the net.
Lavant restored their two-goal lead as Matt Lyttle headed home a Will Cieszynski corner. But again, Lavant were pegged back as they failed to deal with a long ball into the box and the Henfield player hit another sublime strike to make it 3-2.
Lavant: Court, Grace, McCoy, Lillywhite, Wright, Augustus, Stevens, Sandford, Hancock, Caveney, Baker. Subs: Cieszynski, Lyttle.
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