GALLERY: Lions sink Saints to extend lead at top

Scott Murfin was again the hero as Pagham came back from 2-1 down to beat St Francis Rangers 4-2 at Nyetimber Lane and extend their lead at the top of the Sussex League division-one table.

With the game given the go-ahead only half an hour before kick-off following sterling work by the groundsmen and volunteer fork-wielders, the Lions made the most of closest rivals Dorking dropping points at home.

Action from Pagham's win over St Francis    Picture by Kate Shemilt C141563-5

Action from Pagham's win over St Francis Picture by Kate Shemilt C141563-5

Both sides missed early chances but Pagham were looking the better side.

Dan Martin was very strong on the right wing, giving his opposite number problems. Conor Carolan kick-started a Rangers attack, but Pagham cleared their lines.

Rob Brown could have given Pagham the lead but his shot went over the bar. Twenty minutes in, referee Mr Collumbell booked Josh Bryant in controversial fashion. No-one in the ground seemed to know why the yellow card had been shown.

Pagham’s resultant free-kick saw them open the scoring as Murfin made the most of a goalmouth melee to strike home.

The restart saw Andy Brown of St Francis Rangers go on a run which was blocked by the Lions rearguard.

With the pitch cutting up, Neil Murfin was unlucky to receive a yellow card which owed more to the mudbath of a surface than any malice.

Just after the half-hour, Martin left the pitch to applause, injury cutting short a superb display. On came Lewis Hamilton to replace him.

The visitors stepped up a gear and by half-time they were 2-1 up.

A goal out of nothing saw Sam Saunders’ long-range shot fizz past Binfield on 39 minutes, followed two minutes later by Nathan Millroy’s solo run and shot.

The Lions raced out of the blocks as the second period started, virtually parking in Rangers’ half.

Five minutes in, the equaliser arrived via Ryan Davidson. A corner appeared to deflect off Tom Broadbent and Davidson was on hand to steer the ball home.

This triggered a shooting match from the Lions, with Rob Brown having two clear-cut chances and Scott Murfin pinging a strike off the crossbar.

More controversy followed on 57 minutes as a booking for Rangers’ Dan Lawrence was felt more deserving of a red card by many in the Pagham crowd.

Neil Murfin tried his luck against Rangers keeper Rob Gordon, shooting just over. Then Ryan Morey had a shot charged down as the Lions looked for that elusive third.

It finally came on 69 minutes as Scott Murfin collected a pass and gave Gordon no chance. Morey’s run a few minutes later could have made it four, but again a cut-up pitch robbed him with the goal in sight.

Now it was all Pagham. Time and again they rushed forward, but the Rangers defence held firm.

Eight minutes before the end, a pinpoint free-kick from Ruben French was deflected behind for a corner.

With less than a minute to go, Scott Murfin raced into the area and was up-ended in front of the ref, who had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot. Justice was served as Murfin took the spot-kick himself to complete his hat-trick.

Pagham host Shoreham this Saturday.

PAGHAM: Binfield, A Brown, French, O’Connor (Wimble 65), Broadbent, Davidson, Martin (Hamilton 32), N Murfin, R Brown, S Murfin, Morey (Van Driel 76). Subs not used: Dormer, Richer.

JON ROSE