Non League Daily

Ryman relegation rollercoaster proves painful for Peacehaven

As we entered the final weekend of the Ryman Premier League season the table didn’t make pleasant reading for fans of Peacehaven & Telscombe writes NLD South East writer Ian Townsend

Whilst any one of five teams could yet fill the final relegation place- Bury Town, AFC Hornchurch and Witham Town already cut adrift- the Magpies were favourites for the drop, two points behind their nearest rivals.

Still, a victory at the newly spruced up Sports Park, coupled with defeat for any one of Lewes, VCD Athletic, Canvey Island or Harrow Borough, and survival would be assured.

It had been a season of adversity. One look at the squad told the tale. Only seven players remained of the fifteen named against VCD in September, with the highest profile names long departed, to be replaced by willing and developing younger talent; players who may yet have a future at this level but have had to do their learning the hard way, as Peacehaven plummeted from a safe mid table position a few months ago into a dire relegation scrap.

Halfway through the season the Ryman League pointed out that the necessary ground improvements required for Premier League status were still outstanding, and that enforced relegation would follow if they were not completed.

A new chairman came in, costs were cut, and the “Stand or Fall” appeal was launched.

Much of the squad, wages slashed, left for pastures new. The appeal, though not yet over, has been remarkably successful; with eleven of the targeted fifteen thousand pounds so far raised the ground has been spruced up, extra seats added, and the League authorities have confirmed that they are happy.

Ironically the result of ensuring that the club couldn’t be relegated by off the field matters was always likely to be relegation on it.

As the match kicked off in glorious sunshine, the home supporters were remarkably calm and cheerful. After 22 minutes they were even happier; 2-0 up, with Canvey Island losing at home to Wingate & Finchley.

Peacehaven had started the game at top speed, and The Beavers were unable to cope- not that their supporters were too distressed.

“We’re sending Canvey down,” they chorused. They seemed quite obsessed with the relegation of others, moving on to sing about “having a party coz Staines have gone down,” and how they’d “rather go to Brighton than Canvey.”

Their team was certainly helping them in this regard, and the home side seemed full of confidence. News that Lewes and Harrow were ahead was tempered by the fact that Canvey had conceded another. Suddenly the temperature dropped.

A thick sea fret drifted across the ground and blotted the South Downs from view, and April turned to November. A Peacehaven chance hit the bar, and in Essex Canvey got a goal back. Half time arrived with Peacehaven out of the bottom four, but by the most precarious of margins.

During the interval the fog got thicker, the wind colder. As the match resumed it certainly seemed that the Peacehaven team had lost sight of their composure, if not of each other. Within little more than a minute Hampton had pulled a goal back, as Charlie Moone- who apparently has never been in Eastenders- poked the ball between the legs of Di Benardo in the home goal.

Less than ten minutes later the visitors were level, with the impressive Jake Rose firing home from twenty yards. Even worse, Canvey had also equalized, and Lewes had gone further ahead. It was beginning to look hopeless.

Hampton made it look even more hopeless on 62 minutes, as nippy winger Jerome Federico bamboozled the home defence to set up Ryan Newman. At this point the away fans went quiet, as if hit by the realisation that they were going back to Canvey Island after all whether they liked it or not.

Just to rub it in further, Canvey scored too, also going 3-2 up. The only other relegation threatened team not winning was VCD Athletic, and by virtue of a vastly superior goal difference, a point would be enough for them whatever Peacehaven managed.

The Magpies faithful tried to rally their team, and substitute Seb Saunders, aided and abetted by Dan McLaughlan in midfield, did his best to breach the Hampton & Richmond rearguard, but it was all to no avail.

With six minutes to go the irrepressible Federico, who had been unnerving the home defence for the entire second half, set up Culley to go on a mazy run which ended up with the ball once more in the net. The match petered out, and the season did the same.

At full time, as the away supporters celebrated, the home fans waited to applaud their team off the field. They’d fallen short, and indeed two late VCD goals had meant that whatever Peacehaven’s result they’d still have gone down, but there was no real dejection here. In the clubhouse an end of season party was beginning, and it certainly didn’t feel like a wake.

With a ground that is finally fit for the Ryman Premier, the Magpies now have to concentrate on rebuilding the team to get back there. They’ve had to face far greater adversity in the past, so you wouldn’t expect that to be an insurmountable hurdle.

Article: Ian Townsend

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