The Barrowmen endured a tricky afternoon at the hands of Step7 side Westside FC, making their debut in the FA Vase, but ultimately were good vale for a place in the next round after two goals from the in form Ben Bacon (pictured), taking his tally to 13 for the season so far.
Steyning made the trip to the Mayfield Statdium in Croydon, home of AFC Croydon, the ground which our hosts play at currently, via 52 seater bus and the squad arrived to a compact stadium with a decent looking playing surface. Skipper Levoi was suspended for the afternoon after his red card at Billingshurst, but took his place amongst the Steyning support enjoying the liquid refreshment on offer. Town were also without the influential Charlie Romain and Scott Faber. The experienced Gainsford and Pickford took their place at the heart of the defence, and were to impress during the course of the afternoon. Al-Samiarie returned to left back and Court to the right. Bukleb was in a holding midfield position with Clark, Ozga, Townley and Hartley in front of him with Bacon spearheading the 4-1-4-1 set up.
The game started with the very bright and full of running early on, backed by and exciteable home crowd. In fact they could have taken the lead 5 minute in as a free header flashed wide of the goal from a corner, with Steyning wondering how one player could be left so unmarked. However Steyning were playing most of the football in the early stages but moves were breaking down in the final third, and a succession of corners and free kicks came to nothing. Clark was looking lively down the left and Townley was getting some success down the right, enjoying a lively tussle with their left back.
On 27 minutes Steyning had a very strong penalty appeal turned down as Bacon darted in to the box and looked to be checked by two defenders, but the ref, who it must be said had a very good afternoon, was having none of it. Town continued to probe, and the powerful Ozga, looking more and more the part in central midfield was at the heart of their best moves, ably supported with neat link play by Hartley. It was a run and cross by Ozga that just eluded the onrushing Bukleb with the goal gaping, and their keeper made a couple of smart saves, one especially good low down from a Clark drive.
Half time 0-0, but once sensed there was more to come.
The second half started with Court coming off feeling unwell after a knocked to the head late in the first half to be replaced by Milner, meaning Clark dropped in to the back four. The heavens also opened so the game started to be played in torrential rain, giving the pitch a real zip.
Steynings best chance of the game came in the 47th minutes as the ball hit the post following a scramble in the goalmouth. Steyning were now getting firmly on top and Bacon dribbled along the edge of the box and fired narrowly wide. However the travelling fans did not have to wait much longer to celebrate, as Townley was hauled down on the edge of the box, and Bacon whipped the ball round the corner of the wall with his left foot, low in to the bottom corner. Relief all round.
The goal saw Steyning really start to assert greater control of the game, with the hosts occasionally threatening on the break with their pacey forwards however the radar on their long range shooting was well off on the whole. On one such occasion however they did rattle the crossbar with a dipping drive from 30 yards, which Rose left, seemingly knowing more than the rest of us!! At the other end Townley had a couple of half chances with the keeper dealt with comfortably. As legs began to tire Ozga was replaced by Thompson and lasts seasons captain Finch also came on for the last 15 minutes, a welcome return for ‘Finchey’ after injury.
By now the hosts started to throw caution to the wind as the game enter the final ten minutes and life became very uncomfortable all of a sudden for Town. Ben Rose in the town goal, who hadn’t had too much to deal with all afternoon made two terrific stops in a matter of minutes. Firstly he got down well to save a low stinging drive from an angle, and then he tipped away full stretch a stunning bicycle kick volley that looked goal bound the whole way. From the resulting Corner Westside threw all 11 players up including the keeper. Bacon remained on the halfway line, and as the corner was drilled clear by the Town defence, Bacon was left unopposed to control the high ball and to run half the length of the pitch and secure the victory as the home defence chased him down.
Delight all round for a job well done against lively and spirited opposition who played well in patches and certainly caused us some anxious moments. Three Bridges at home now awaits in the next round which will be a great game for everyone involved at the club, and hopefully a good sized crowd can be expected at the Shooting Field.
Steyning: Rose, Court (Milner),Gainsford,Pickford, Al-Samairie, Clark, Ozga (Thompson), Hartley (Finch), Townley, Bukleb, Bacon
MOM – Danny Gainsford. Imperious at the back.