Saturday 1st May 2021 – The Supplementary Cup – The Shooting Field, Steyning
The whispers have already started and the gossip is doing the rounds about the forthcoming announcement from the Football Association on the restructure of Steps 4-6. Whilst there is likely to be more than a few clubs unhappy with having to move laterally between divisions at Step 4, it is necessary to make the room for the sides eligible to move up from Step 5. With no relegation possible after less than a quarter of the season being played, there will be some teams who may miss out by the narrowest of margins.
Lancing appear to be in the box seat for the single promotion spot from the Southern Combination, pipping Newhaven on their combined records over the past two seasons by the narrowest of points per game. Before they would find out if they would be taking their place in the Isthmian League for the first time, there was the small matter of the Southern Combination Supplementary Cup to play.
Due to Lancing’s progress in this season’s FA Vase, the game against Steyning Town had been rearranged to today, with Lancing knowing that a win would take them through to the semi-final where they would meet Lingfield. The two sides met a week ago with Lancing running out 8-1 winners and speaking to Steyning’s manager and all round nice chap, Gerry Murphy, he wasn’t expecting much more from this game, with just 11 fit players to choose from.
Steyning Chairman Ian Nicholls briefed me on their strategy before the game. “We aren’t paying any of the players for this tournament – we wanted to see how many would still come along a play after lockdown for the game, rather than the money. It is interesting as most would have only been payed petrol money anyway – gives us a good idea as to who will be with us next season.
“Not that it will help us much today. Lancing are a cut above other sides and we are down to the bare bones”
Steyning are building a great community club. After the game there were groups of youngsters waiting to play their matches on the pitch and the frustration of not being able to use their impressive bar/club house for the past few months had certainly been felt by the club, as Nicholls goes onto explain.
“We’ve got plans to redevelop the whole off the pitch facilities – the 3G has made such a huge difference not only to the club but the community and we want to have additional facilities to match. I’m just frustrated we can’t move quicker on things”
The situation with availability of players for Steyning Town couldn’t have been more different for the visitors. Lancing were able to name an impressive squad, which was also one of the reasons for me watching the game as there were a number of young past and present Rooks in the squad. With Lancing currently still a Step 5 club, for at least a few weeks more, they are able to dual register players from Steps 3 and 4, like Lewes. That neat rule won’t apply if/when they move upwards.
Despite the potential gulf in difference between the two sides, and the result seven days previous, it was an open first half with both sides playing a patient passing game on the excellent 3G surface. In the middle of the action, and rarely more than a few metres from the referee, was the veteran Darren Budd, his grey hair belying his all action style of play and he was at the heart of most of the attacking thrust for the visitors but they couldn’t find anything to break down a well-marshalled home defence.
The second half was much the same – Lancing made numerous substitutes as tensions rose on the sidelines. Whilst in the grand scheme of things this was a secondary competition for Lancing, their winning mentality is part of the reason why they are looking at a spot in Step 4 after their performances in the last few seasons, and finally they found a way through when a low cross was turned in from ten yards. Alas, the Social Media blackout meant I have no idea who scored the goal.
The second goal killed the game but had a strong whiff of controversy about it. A Lancing ball through the Steyning defence saw a player clearly offside and he appeared to move towards the ball, with the linesman starting to raise his flag, before realising his position and halting, allowing the overlapping full-back to run from an onside position and clear of the defence. He pulled it back to Caplin who slammed it home from 12 yards. The home side felt that the goal shouldn’t stand and tried to get the referee to at least talk to the linesman but it was to no avail. Game over.
Lancing had the win they needed to progress into next week’s semi-finals and for Steyning Town it was the end of their season and a chance to put in place the plans for hopefully an uninterrupted campaign next season and a chance for Marshall and his team behind the scenes to start fulfilling those plans to bring the club even closer to the local community.