East Preston Football Club’s Southern Combination League Division 1 promotion party was put on hold for at least another week on Saturday.
Kenny Butchers struck five minutes from time as EP were held to a 2-2 draw by Bexhill United at The Lashmar.
Daniel Huet struck twice to cancel out Jacob Shelton’s early strike as East Preston looked on course to collect the three points they needed to ensure an immediate return to the SCFL Premier Division after relegation last season.
Butchers had other ideas, though, and his effort after 85 minutes means EP still need two points from their final three games to guarantee promotion.
East Preston boss Bob Paine admitted the draw felt like a defeat for his side.
He said: “To be honest it feels like a defeat. We were all hoping to secure promotion here at home but we came across a resolute Bexhill and a goalkeeper in inspired form.
“It wasn’t to be but we are still in a great position at the top of the table.
“Although we are disappointed, to add a bit of perspective, we have only lost one league game in the previous 15. With three games to go, we need two points to secure promotion and winning the league is still in our hands.”
Dan Rose pulled off a number of superb saves in the opening half-hour to keep East Preston at bay.
Sloppy defending from the home side then allowed Bexhill to take the ;lead after 27 minutes. Jacob Shelton was left unmarked to head home a free-kick.
EP were level four minutes before the break as Huet notched his first of the afternoon.
Josh Etherington’s header could only be parried into Huet’s path by Rose and he was on hand to slam home the rebound.
The turnaround was complete a minute into first half stoppage-time after poking home following a goalmouth scramble.
EP came out in the second looking to extend their advantage and ensure promotion.
Rose did well to deny both Jared Rance and Steve Herbert as East Preston kept pushing.
With Paine’s side on course for all the points needed to seal promotion, disaster struck five minutes from the end.
A ball over the top found Butchers, who was on hand to thunder home from six yards.
Despite the defeat East Preston remain top a points clear of Saltdean United in second place.
Saltdean could only manage a draw in their home clash with place-below Little Common, leaving EP in pole position to clinch the title. East Preston travel to basement boys St Francis Rangers on Saturday.
EAST PRESTON: Cook; Josh Parazo, Lyne, Etherington, Jacob Parazo; Hallett, Barnes; Franzen-Jones, Rance, Herbert; Huet. Subs: Smith (Hallett, 66), Gilbertson, Stevenson, Hunter, Purkis.
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