Freak goal costs Pagham victory at Saltdean

Pagham scorer Lindon Miller / Picture by Roger Smith
Pagham scorer Lindon Miller / Picture by Roger Smith

Anyone that goes to football regularly will be well aware that it can be a cruel game.

This, for Pagham, was easily the cruellest of the season. Playing by far the best they have, away from home, for almost 12 months, two simple crazy moments cost them two points.

This was a game dominated by the away side who could have been out of sight before the fatal last few minutes that were to evolve.

On five minutes, Tigers keeper Billy Collings dropped the ball from a cross from Toby Funnell, but just managed to grab it at the feet of the onrushing Jamie Carroll.

Saltdean forced a good save out of Pagham keeper Jordan Matthews on 13 minutes, before Collings managed to get a lovely chip by Marco Giambelardini over the bar at full stretch.

The Lions kept piling forward and they got their reward when Lindon Miller knocked home a rebound from a Giambelardini close-in shot on 32 minutes.

Matthews pulled off a stunning one-on-one save as the Tigers broke through, but it was Pagham back on attack before half-time and almost grabbed a second, but nobody could force the ball home from a scramble in the Saltdean six-yard box.

Jack Barnes hit the first effort of the second half just past the post and the game carried on in much the same way, with Pagham in the ascendancy.

However, despite several half-chances, they could not force a second goal. Cian Tilley replaced Giambelardini just before the half-hour mark and it seemed to be working, especially when Funnell was brought down inside the box for a penalty after 67 minutes. Captain Barnes took the responsibility and promptly skied the ball well over the bar.

Pagham made two more substitutions and seemed to be playing out the remaining minutes quite comfortably – until – with 90 seconds left in normal time, the referee, who by then was blowing his whistle every time two players came into contact with each other, gave Saltdean a free-kick just over the halfway line. James Waters, attempting to drop a cross into the centre of the area, over-hit the ball so much, it managed to float gently over the hands of Matthews and into the net for an undeserved equaliser.

The last few minutes ended in chaos as one Saltdean player was sent to the sin-bin and one from each side was sent off (including sub Jack Hands for Pagham). How a game without a really bad tackle in it can result in two red cards and six bookings is hard to fathom.

Nevertheless it's seven points out of nine now since Kerry Hardwell and his new coaching team took over.

Pagham: Matthews, da Costa, Hallett, Jenkins, Searle, Clark, Carroll (Lyne), Barnes, Miller (Hands), Giambelardini (C Tilley), Funnell. Subs not used: J Henton, Heryet.