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Saturday 12th December 2020 ko 15.00

Southern Combination Premier Division

PEACEHAVEN & TELSCOMBE 2 (Benson 50 Webber 78)

STEYNING TOWN COMMUNITY 1 (Cousins 10)

Att 153

Entry £7

Programme online only

Lockdown #2 ended up lasting a couple of weeks longer than either Robyn or I planned, and the irony of both of us contracting Coronavirus during a lockdown isn’t lost on me. We were fortunate, very fortunate to contract only a mild strain of the disease and although we were pretty wiped out for a few days we quickly recovered, with fatigue being the last symptom to fade away. But that fact did influence where we went. I wanted to break up the driving a little, I wasn’t comfortable with the marathon stints I’ve taken on in the past. That brought an idea from the past into my head….

Many years ago I’d visited the East Beach Cafe in Littlehampton. The place is quite something, and was designed by Thomas Heatherwick, who also designed the “B of the Bang” sculpture that used to stand outside of Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium. I’d visited just after it opened in 2005 but left it to someone else to book a table, she forgot so I made do with a coffee and cake sat outside on the beach. I wanted better for Robyn who had never heard of the place let alone visited! And it was well worth the booking, my Monkfish and Parma Ham Risotto was sublime. 

But having stopped at Littlehampton, there were no lack of options for football. Littlehampton play in the Southern Combination as do Ferring and no end of others. But as we scanned the Football Traveller one name leapt out of the page and that was Steyning Town. We’d visited the Shooting Field almost 4 years ago, as the third of three games on a freezing day during the Christmas break and were thoroughly charmed by a friendly club, and as I said at the time the reason I help organise groundhopping events  is due to clubs like Steyning.

It meant we had an hour’s drive east, bypassing Brighton & Hove Albion’s Amex Stadium on our way to Peacehaven, which seemed to be to be the closest club I couldn’t get to on a midweek with a 5.30 start from work, you may remember the rush to get to nearby Newhaven!

Peacehaven is though, quite different from its neighbour. The town dates from as recently as 1918, and was the brainchild of entrepreneur Charles Neville who saw the place as being a place of recuperation for soldiers returning from the First World War. That didn’t stop him running a competition in the national newspapers to name his new town. The winning name was the rather clunky “New Anzac-on-Sea” so he rapidly renamed the place Peacehaven.  In 1933 actress Gracie Fields established the eponymous Home and Orphanage in Dorothy Avenue here. Its worth commenting that the children were not orphans; their parents were entertainers who placed their children there while they were away on tour. These days Dorothy House is an Old People’s Home. 

The town is still largely laid out in a grid system and Neville commissioned the Obelisk on the seafront that marks the Prime Meridian as it reaches its most southerly point in the UK. We made sure we visited the the obelisk, as it’s on its third site due to cliff-top erosion, and it does give the local football club their badge!

Peacehaven & Telscombe play at the end of Piddinghoe Avenue at the northern end of the town with the foothills of the South Downs clearly visible as the land slopes away beyond the pitch. That reference to Piddinghoe is significant, Charles Neville bought land in the Piddinghoe district to start what became Peacehaven. The ground forms part of a complex with a bowls club, cafe and community centre. Those facilities do share a car park, so it is worth getting here early.  

Of course that goes double in this times of Covid precautions with the tendency for people to congregate near the entrance, in no small part to Tier 2 regulations closing the clubhouse. That of course cuts off a major source of income to a small club so Robyn and I decided to have a go on the “Golden Goal” competition. She got the 88th minute and me the 90th- and we all know a few groundhoppers who’d have taken that as some kind of omen!!

The ground reflects Peacehaven’s 3 year stint in the Isthmian League from 2013-16 and that included. would you believe a season in the Premier Division?! The series of “Arena” stands on the far side took care of the seating requirements for Step 4 and there’s that staple of the Isthmian, the covered enclosure behind the goal too. But the intriguing bit is the bank of uncovered seats behind the other goal, were they moved there to free up standing space under the clubhouse canopy?

As my regular reader knows my ability to jinx a friendly club knows no bounds. Steyning took an early lead, George Cousins taking advantage of the channel that the injured and off the pitch Harry Reed would have been defending. But as time wore on the visitors had few answers to Cameron Wiltshire’s probing passes from just in front of the back four. 

One such pass found Manny Okobougo on the right, and his cross positively invited Liam Benson’s header at the back post. The winner saw Benson’s shot bravely saved by Jordan Hawkins, but noone had picked up substitute Jack Webber ghosting in to stab home.  Truthfully the it was the right result, and it was hard to begrudge another friendly, community club their win. We slowly made for home….