LITTLEHAMPTON Football Club’s superb season ended on a slightly sour note as they lost 1-0 to County League champions Peacehaven & Telscombe in the John O’Hara Cup final on Friday.
Division 2 champions Golds, who were also runners-up in the County League Division 2 Cup final, ended the game with just nine men and had another player shown a red card after the final whistle for comments made to the officials.
A strong breeze was in favour of Mark Bennett’s side for the first half but Peacehaven looked the more threatening as the lively Wes Tate attempted a chip after just four minutes but man-of-the-match, Golds keeper, Jon Hendrick, was not unduly troubled.
The first real chance came on 12 minutes as Tate turned his marker to bear down on goal but Hendrick saved with his legs. The rebound was fired towards goal by Joe Dryer but cleared off the line by the excellent Mitchell Hand, who made a lot of ground to keep the scores level.
The breakthrough was made, however, on 18 minutes as Tate crossed from the right for Dryer to volley home from five yards at the back post.
Littlehampton’s best chance of a reply appeared to come from the boot of Mitchell Hand as he cut in from the left to shoot from 20 yards after 39 minutes and then had a free kick deflected on 44 minutes, but both efforts were saved with relative ease.
The second half found Golds under pressure with Hendrick forced into tipping over a fierce Tom Burton drive just two minutes in and Dryer saw his free kick just creep wide.
The turning point came after 51 minutes as Peacehaven skipper Craig Hall and Golds’ Danny Hand had a disagreement over a tackle, with the Littlehampton player aiming a headbutt at his opposite number.
Hand was shown a straight red card and appeared to do the same to the referee before barging the linesman on his way off the field, which could lead to a lengthy ban.
Bennett immediately made a double substitution which seemed to galvanise his side, although without creating any meaningful chances but clearly making Peacehaven panic. This was until the first minute of injury-time when sub Ben Gray, who had just received a yellow card for a late tackle, decided to throw the ball at Hall after a couple of heavy challenges and incur a second booking and subsequent marching orders.
Things went from bad to worse for Golds as Ross McKay saw red after the final whistle for comments made to the referee.
LITTLEHAMPTON: J.Hendrick; Wiggans, Bates, McKay, M.Hand; D.Hand, Thompson, O’Callaghan, M.Hendrick; Gaskin, Jarvis. Subs: Kew, Gray (Wiggans, Jarvis 63), Peacock (O’Callaghan 88), Raynor, Bird.