Burgess Hill Town manager Ian Chapman declared himself pleased yet relieved as his side progressed to the Second Qualifying Round of the FA Trophy, defeating Beaconsfield SYCOB by 5-1 at the Green Elephants Stadium.
That may sound a rather unlikely statement given the margin of victory, but for a considerable period of the first half Hillians were second best, until Crawley Town loanee Dean Cox took control and changed the game entirely.
Town went ahead in the fifth minute. Cox sent over a corner from the right, and the ball found itself at the feet of striker Chris Smith at the far side of the box. Smith lined up a shot, but it seemed to be going wide when a defender stuck out a leg and deflected the ball past keeper Sam Bunting. Hillians good start proved to be something of a false dawn, and Beaconsfield were level three minutes later when a fabulous cross from Ryan Hill was bundled home by Nathan Minhas. Hill, who had spent this week on trial with Premier League Stoke City, then ran the game for almost half an hour before Cox delivered a decisive intervention.
In the 37th minute a ball was lofted towards the head of Brighton and Hove Albion loan signing Jonah Ayunga. Under pressure, Ayunga did well to cushion the ball back to Cox on the edge of the box, but what came next was sublime, as Cox shaped his body and delivered a volley that had the two hundred and twenty-six spectators- and his team mates- spellbound as it headed unerringly for the corner of the net. Eight minutes later and it was three, as Cox got to the byline before pulling the ball back for an onrushing Sam Fisk to fire home.
The second half was something of an anti-climax, but Cox remained in charge, setting up the fourth goal with an incisive through ball which Ayunga flicked beautifully over the advancing keeper, before pouncing on a goalkeeping error to tap home the fifth- and his second- two minutes into added time.
“I think it was a bit of an injustice that we came in three-one up at half time,” explained Chapman. “We gave the ball away too sloppily, but fortunately they missed a couple of good chances and then Dean Cox scored an absolute worldy to put us back in front before setting up the third one as well. I don’t want to be harsh on the players, we’re through to the next round and that’s great, but if we’d played a side in our league we’d have got beaten today.”
Chapman had many words of praise for Cox, but was also positive about the contribution of Ayunga, 19, who started his second game of a month’s loan. “With each game he’s getting better,” he explained. “It’s great he’s got a goal, and I thought he was a real handful all day.”
But this day was all about Dean Cox, and Crawley Town fans will be rubbing their hands in glee as his arrival date gets closer.
Burgess Hill: James, Miles, Fisk, Pearse, Toure (Redwood 75), Richmond, Cox, L Harding, Ayunga (Richardson-Brown 62)(, Smith, Bolton. Subs (unused): P Harding, Okwate, Tuck.