ARUNDEL Football Club exited the FA Cup at home to Eastbourne United on Tuesday evening after the visitors scored three times in the last 15 minutes.
A sharp shower just prior to kick-off sped the Mill Road surface up nicely for any team willing to put their passing game on show in this preliminary round replay – after a 1-1 draw in Eastbourne on Saturday.
However, the game started with a bang as a poor challenge from Mullets’ Simon Clarke left Eastbourne’s Callum Dove requiring a stretcher and medical attention in only the second minute; Clarke was lucky to receive no more than a talking to.
The hosts made the early running as Aaron Hooker-Meehan fired wide following a strong run from midfield and Barney Boutwood shaved the bar with a free kick, all in the first quarter of an hour.
Eastbourne began to find their feet, however, using the physical side of their game to good effect against an increasingly ragged Arundel side.
The visitors should have taken the lead in the 43rd minute when Dominic Clarke was afforded a free header from a corner from close range but James Fernandes did enough to expel the danger.
The inevitable Eastbourne lead came in the fifth minute of first half stoppage-time when Peter Cooper curled home from the left-hand corner of the box, having taken advantage of a momentarily vacant right-back area.
The half-time introduction of Scott Tipper for the injured Josh Biggs paid immediate dividends for Mullets as the substitute played in Max Thoms, who was tripped in the penalty area just two minutes into the second period. Tipper sent the keeper the wrong way to level the scores from the spot.
Arundel should have taken the lead in the 69th minute as Boutwood, Thoms and Rory Biggs all had shots blocked by desperate defenders and they were left to rue these misses as Cooper turned both Nathan Da Costa and Adam Bibb to tee up Liam Baitup, who slotted into Fernandes’ bottom corner in the 75th minute.
The same Cooper-Baitup combination left Bibb wanting again six minutes later with a carbon copy of the second goal, only on the left wing this time as the visitors extended their lead.
The scoring was complete in stoppage time as Baitup’s hopeful long shot squeezed under Fernandes to round off a miserable night for the Mullets.
Arundel boss Simon Butler said: “We were inept in the first half and told them so at half-time. Scott Tipper made a big difference and had that triple chance gone in it could have been a different game, but we conceded while on top and then just fell apart.”
ARUNDEL: Fernandes; Hamilton, N.Da Costa, Bibb, Peake, Boutwood, Hooker-Meehan, Thoms, J.Biggs, R.Biggs, Clarke. Subs: Tipper (J.Biggs 46), L.Da Costa (Hamilton 67), A.Biggs (Hooker-Meehan 80), Nicholson, McDonald.
Mullets are back in league action on Saturday, when they host Lancing, who have won all four of their league matches so far.
Arundel then travel to division-lower Mile Oak in the second round of the Peter Bentley Cup on Wednesday.
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