Hunter the hero as East Preston seal last-gasp victory

Hayden Hunter hit the winner for East Preston at Loxwood on Saturday. Picture by Derek Martin
Hayden Hunter hit the winner for East Preston at Loxwood on Saturday. Picture by Derek Martin

Hayden Hunter struck a last minute winner to fire East Preston Football Club to a thrilling Southern Combination League Premier Division win at Loxwood on Saturday.

Daniel Huet had given East Preston an early lead before Magpies turned things around.

Trailing by a goal with ten minutes left, Ryan Quirke and Hunter netted in the closing stages as EP stormed to a 3-2 victory.

East Preston had not completed a competitive match since December 19 and boss Bob Paine was delighted with his side’s showing.

He said: “Very proud of the team. To find ourselves 2-1 down with 20 minutes left - having not completed a match for seven weeks - showed the character, desire and fitness of my team to score twice in the last ten minutes.

“We have trained twice a week since we haven’t played and we got our reward for all that hard work. The team spirit is excellent and we saw how together the group is.

“We are now in catch up mode in the league with seven games in February so a tough schedule but one we are looking forward to having not played for so long.”

It was an open, entertaining match with both sides trying to play football on a tricky surface that cut up as the game progressed.

Loxwood had early claims for a penalty waved away by referee Andrew Senior after centre-back Tom Lyne made a tackle in the area.

East Preston goalkeeper Ben Purkis got down well to save a shot on 28 minutes, then Huet netted for Paine’s side nine minutes later.

Jack Barnes’ through ball sent frontman Huet clear and he kept his cool, sliding past the onrushing Samuel Smith.

Loxwood were level with Ollie Moore quickest to react following a corner five minutes after the restart.

Chances flowed at either end but it was the home side who took the lead for the first time 24 minutes from time.

East Preston failed to clear their lines from a corner, with Josh Courtney on hand to fire home the loose ball.

East Preston, who hadn’t completed a competitive in over six weeks were left facing a tall order but stormed back.

Fine footwork from midfielder Quirke saw him find some shooting room and he thundered past Smith nine minutes from time.

Defender Josh Etherington superbly cleared on the line three minutes later as Loxwood looked to go back in front.

A draw looked to be the most likely outcome but East Preston would go on and win the game.

Hunter slotted Huet clear, the frontman unselfishly teed up the former to slot home and secure all three points for Paine’s team on their return to action.

East Preston entertain rivals Littlehampton Town in the league tomorrow (7.45pm).

EAST PRESTON: Purkis; Josh Parazo, Lyne, Etherington, Beaney; Searle, Barnes; Hunter, Quirke, Brodie; Huet. Subs: Heryet (Brodie, 76), Da Costa (Searle, 86), Laughlin (Quirke, 90), Gilbertson, McDonald.