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Monday 3rd January 2022 ko 11:30

Southern Combination Division Two

RUSTINGTON 5 (Howard 19 67 73 Irish 37 38p)


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The alarm went off, and I quietly cursed the Southern Combination making use of the Bank Holiday by scheduling the vast majority of their fixtures in the morning leaving all manner of opportunities for doubles. In fact the surprise was so few other groundhoppers were at our first game.

Even with the benefit of a little hindsight I still don’t quite understand it. Rustington was the only early kickoff in the league at a ground without floodlights. I like to leave those grounds for midweek fixtures, as there are more opportunities for a game during the week then there are on a Saturday. Perhaps people read the situation differently to me!

If you didn’t know Rustington is in Littlehampton’s environs, and is the birthplace of Hubert Parry, who wrote the music that was used to convert William Blakes’s poem “And did those feet in ancient time” into the hymn “Jerusalem.” In more recent times drummer Ben Thatcher of the rock band “Royal Blood” hails from Rustington and they do sponsor the football club!

Rustington play at Rustington Rec, a facility they share with cricket, and its this home that is the key to who they are, their history and I suspect their future too. On one hand it is perfectly adequate for Intermediate football, but the club are rather more successful than that. They’ve won the Southern Combination’s Second Division, or its predecessor the Sussex County League Division 3 three times since 2006 including both 2017-18 and 2018-19.

Those were the  last two seasons the league was completed in full, but due to ground gradings Rustington now cannot get promoted where they are, and to press home the point the club are top as I type this! I can’t see them being able to do bring the Rec’ up to standard, it is just too open, so could the club seek a groundshare? Littlehampton Town and East Preston are close by after all or are the club happy existing at this level? There is an element of “Crossing the Rubicon,” about seeking promotion.

I wasn’t expecting a close game here. I’d watched Worthing Town Leisure 5 years ago and Palatine Park is now a caged 3G affair, and as I expected back then the Leisure suffix disappeared in 2018. This season they’re struggling, and were rock bottom with only 3 points. I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn by commenting that Rustington are unlikely ever to win 5-0 any more easily than this- it was a mismatch by anyone’s standards as Keiron Howard collect a hat trick and strike partner Josh Irish a brace. 

It was one of those games where noone learned much. Rustington will no doubt keep an eye on rivals like Jarvis Brook, and Worthing Town will hope to get enough points from weaker sides stave off relegation. At the end of it all I left wondering what will happen next? Who knows!