It was all looking good for the Lions: second in the table, Peter Bentley Cup semi-finalists and a plum tie against Brighton & Hove Albion in the Sussex Senior Cup. Then along came a 97th-minute winner from Eastbourne Town to rob them of their roar.
Having not lost since being knocked out of the FA Vase in September, Mark Bennett’s men were odds-on to beat the visitors. But they ended up losing this SCFL premier division clash 3-2.
In a game hit by torrential rain, the Lions scored first, Kieron Pamment pouncing to strike after only three minutes.
The visitors upped the ante, and just after the quarter-hour came their equaliser. A scything run by Jason Taylor ended with him cut down in the area. Taylor got his revenge from 12 yards.
Protests from fans and players alike came a few minutes later as Pamment received a ball in the face when already prone after a late tackle. The resulting free-kick went nowhere.
A booking for Eastbourne’s Matt Darby on 23 minutes was the first in hotly-contested game.
Joe Shelley had the chance to make it 2-1 when he headed down a pinpoint cross from Callum Overton. Liam Humphreys then shot just wide for Pagham.
Eastbourne’s Aaron Capon forced a desparate clearance on the half-hour as the Lions. Overton tumbled after being bought down by Sam Willett as the referee was being kept on his toes.
Two more bookings followed, Ruben French for the Lions, and Harry Ducatel for the visitors. Scott Murfin struck a free-kick into the wall when well set to score before picking up a yellow card for something said.
After the break Eastbourne replaced Chris Cumming-Bart with James Stone.
Jordan Clarke saw yellow for Pagham before the visitors messed up a free-kick on the right.
Overton was unlucky to be caught offside when clean through, while Eastbourne’s Alan Foster saw his strike go narrowly wide.
The goal of the game came just before the hour. Pamment collected the ball just inside the Eastbourne half, raced toward goal and hit a wonder shot past a stranded Greg Nessling in the away goal.
At the other end Aaron Capon was through on James Binfield when the ball was hacked away.
A double substitution for the Lions saw Clarke and Murfin replaced by Lloyd Rowlatt and Ryan Morey.
The away side levelled on 76 minutes, Evan Archibald having acres of space to run through and score past Binfield.
This triggered the lighting of a flare behind Binfield’s goal by an Eastbourne fan, causing a stoppage whilst the smoke cleared.
The smoke seemed to get into Greg Nessling’s eyes as a complete misjudgement by the Eastbourne stopper almost saw the Lions go 3-2 up.
With five minutes of normal time left, controversy reigned. A strike from Pagham appeared to cross the line, but Eastbourne’s players were less sure and while many in the ground felt the goal should have stood, a tense couple of minutes followed as the referee consulted with his assistant. No goal.
The Lions followed that by hitting the post. g Nessling picked up an injury and only after a lengthy treatment period could he continue.
The stoppages seemed to break the Lions’ concentration and deep into injury time Eastbourne sub Adebula Sotoyinbo pounced from the left to hit a low long-range shot past Binfield.
The Eastbourne fans went wild – and went home happy.
Pagham: Binfield, Wiggans, Warren, Wollers, Humphreys, Shelley, Clark (Rowlatt 68), Pamment, S Murfin (Morey 68), Overton. Subs not used: G Bingham, N Murfin, Thurgar.
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