STEYNING Town boss Richard Whittington cannot wait for the next County League season after his side completed their campaign with a thrilling draw against division two champions East preston.
Town battled to a hard-fought 3-3 draw at title-winning East Preston, despite playing for 35 minutes with ten men after they had defender Tom Bowles sent off for a reckless tackle.
Having completed a satisfying first season in charge, Whittingham said: “This season has been one of progression and improvement and we now have a very good base to build on. We have come so far from where we started and I expect that to carry on over the summer and into next season.
“It is an exciting time to be at the club as we are getting better and better on and off the pitch and I can’t wait for next season to start already.”
East Preston were presented with the title winning trophy after the game and it looked like they would mark the occasion with another success as they made a flying start.
Striker George Gaskin, who is the top scorer in the whole of Sussex non-league football, took just two minutes to net his 45th goal of the season when he converted a cross from close range following a lapse in the Town defence.
However, Town were in no mood to roll over for the champions and they hit back just two minutes later through their own top scorer Adam Burton. The visitors pounced on some casual defending by the hosts and Burton was on hand to tuck away a neat finish.
EP did not take long to regain the lead when skipper Joe Shelley stormed through the Town defence on ten minutes to score emphatically.
But again Steyning refused to lie down and Burton was once again quick to reply with another confident finish after he had robbed the ball from the EP back four.
Burton’s strike partner Phil Williamson then put Town in front soon after when he latched onto a good ball from Dave Harris and found the bottom corner.
It was then EP’s turn to hit back quickly when Shelley powered home a header from a corner minutes later.
The goal came seconds after Town defender Kerry Parsons had denied Gaskin his second goal with a superb athletic goal-line clearance after the EP striker had rounded visiting keeper Luke Green.
With the score at 3-3 after just 35 minutes, a goal feast looked on the cards until two stoppages in play due to injuries disrupted the flow of the game early in the second half.
First Shelley collided with one of his team mates at a corner, causing both to be carried off with ankle and head injuries respectively.
Then, ten minutes after the game had restarted, Bowles was given his marching orders after jumping into a tackle on the EP full-back, who had to be stretchered off.
Ten-man Town sat back for the rest of the half and frustrated the home side with some dogged defending. They were only troubled once when Green managed to scramble the ball off the line following a corner.
Assistant manager Tom Gurney said: “The players were phenomenal. We approached the game determined not to just make up the numbers and to produce a good performance and we did just that.
“East Preston are a very good side and are worthy champions but I like to think we showed we could match them in a lot of areas. To get a point from the champions with ten men shows a lot of character. A lot of people would have expected us to roll over as we had nothing to play for so I loved the fact we produced so much effort and desire to do ourselves proud.”