Nyetimber Pirates’ hopes of retaining the Chichester & West Sussex Sunday League division-one title got off to a good start as they fought to a 4-2 win over a strong FC Swan side at Avisford Park.
Swan were one of the only two teams to beat the Pirates last season and arrived with an experienced side boasting a number of county league stars.
Kerry Hardwell opened the scoring on ten minutes when he curled a trademark goal into the bottom corner from outside the box.
Pirates were two up when Bryan Cox struck from the by-line – his effort rocketed into the top corner from 35 yards.
Swan’s new duo of Palmer and Hamm at the back stood firm.
Rhys Tapner soon made it 3-0 when he smashed home from close range giving him his first Pirates goal.
Ted Griffin and Doug Peach were impressive in midfield as they helped Dean Cooper run Swan ragged.
Swan came out for the second half a different side and grabbed one back when a long-range effort was dropped as Jamie Walter collided with Mike Hamm, which gave Swan a simple tap-in.
Swan struck again after a goalmouth scramble was not cleared.
With 15 minutes to go referee Martyn Chandler pointed to the spot after a handball and Hardwell slotted home to put the game out of reach.
PIRATES: Walter, Williamson, Hamm, Palmer, Tapner, Bishop, Griffin, Peach,Cox, Cooper, Hardwell. Subs: Vevers, Thomas, Carter.
Wheatsheaf 3 Pagham Rangers 3
Wheatsheaf and Pagham Rangers shared the spoils in a thrilling opening game at a the rain-sodden Jubilee playing fields.
Rangers grew in confidence as the half wore on and, driven on superbly by new skipper Garry Clarke, they took the lead after good pressure from Callum Millar in chasing down a loose ball led to him seizing on a defensive mistake to slot the ball past the Sheaf custodian.
The Rangers defence marshalled superbly by Alex MacIver and Christopher Heller held firm.
Sheaf equalised on 35 minutes when a through-ball found its way through to the home striker, who rounded Richie before slotting home.
Lee Doran then shot wide when through on goal.
Sheaf took the lead for the first time when good play on the right wing saw a cross converted at the back post by Dave Turner.
Rangers were caught by a sucker punch minutes later when Scott Hampton picked the ball up outside the area and chipped Richie for a 3-1 lead.
Rangers continued taking the game to Wheatsheaf and they gave themselves a lifeline with five minutes left. Star man Millar was played through and his effort was superbly saved only for Dominic Negus to pounce on the rebound.
Then Paul Wheeler’s hopeful punt sparked a race between Millar and the Sheaf keeper. Millar got there first, nipped the ball past him and turned and scored into the unguarded net.
Rangers even had a chance to win it but Wheatsheaf were able to thrwart the last attack.
RANGERS: Richie, Wheeler, Feast, MacIver, Heller, Clarke, Negus, Ring, Doran, Lawrence (Dean), Millar.
Elmer 1 Sidlesham 3
Promoted Elmer found the going tough in their first match in division two. Youthful and spirited Sidlesham got into their stride quickly at Mill Road and took the lead on 17 minutes with a well-taken overhead shot past Steve Nanson.
With Jon Morley and Neale Watts making their debuts and Alex Berry back after his year in New Zealand the home defence bore no resemblance to last season’s double-winning foursome.
A slick move on 40 minutes saw the Sids double their lead with a fine finish from Kevin Derry at the far post.
Elmer forced a number of their own chances early in the second half, but a combination of misfortune and untidy finishing let the visitors off the hook. An untimely injury to Watts saw another re-shuffle in defence and while they were still getting used to the changes, Sids wrapped up the match taking an unassailable 3-0 lead.
To their credit, Elmer kept going and got their reward in the dying minutes when Al Norgett, another debutant, was tripped in the area.
Players’ player of the year Matt Hope crashed in the spot-kick into the net to make the final score 3-1.