Broadbridge Heath snatch late draw to deny Loxwood in first game at new home

The view from Broadbridge Heath's new main stand as the Bears take on Loxwood. Picture by Matt Jones
The view from Broadbridge Heath's new main stand as the Bears take on Loxwood. Picture by Matt Jones

Broadbridge Heath salvaged a late equaliser to draw the opening game at their brand-new Countryside Stadium.

Based at High Wood Hill Sports Ground, the Bears finally moved into their own home after a 100-year wait.

Tom Frankland looked to spoil the welcome party when he opened the scoring on the half-hour mark, but Martin Flack headed in an equaliser after half-time.

Frankland grabbed his, and Loxwood’s, second, lofting a stunning free kick over Fraser Trigwell.

However, Heath found a last-minute equaliser when George Cousins kept a cool head amidst some confusion in the Loxwood backline, firing in to spark jubilant scenes.

In a largely forgettable first half, with few chances for either side, the deadlock was broken after half-an-hour as the visitors took the lead.

Frankland, beating the offside trap, sprinted through on goal, to finish deftly at the near post.

Loxwood’s Josh Hawkes steered a header off the line just before half-time as the Bears pushed for an equaliser.

But their persistence wouldn’t pay off until after the restart.

After a pinpoint cross from skipper Tom Bold, Flack headed in strongly, giving visiting ‘keeper Liam Matthews no chance.

The scores weren’t level for long though, as the away side retook the lead in spectacular fashion.

Awarded a free-kick from 40-yards out, Frankland spotted Trigwell off his line, and cheekily lobbed him with an incredible strike.

Spencer Slaughter tried his luck from distance to seal the points late on but it was déjà vu for the visitors, who conceded late on in Saturday’s 3-2 defeat to Newhaven.

With the linesman appearing to flag for a foul, the referee waved play on for the advantage, unbeknown to the Loxwood backline.

Keeping cool during the confusion, youngster Cameron Watts poked through to Cousins who finished sweetly past Matthews, ensuring his side wouldn’t be left empty-handed from the first ever game at their new ground.

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Speaking after the match, Heath’s assistant manager Sam Chapman said: “In the end, I think everyone would accept the draw in the end, but for probably two thirds of the game we were looking to win it, even when we were behind. We just didn’t hit the target enough.

“In the second half we got our equaliser, looked good and then a freak goal takes the wind out your sails. It was a good achievement to come back from that because it was a bit of a blow so for the lads.

“Overall, I don’t think we can complain. After a disappointing game at the weekend, we had to put things back together again. We’ve been a little bit disjointed, but it was better tonight.”

Meanwhile, Loxwood manager Alex Walsh was disappointed that his side failed to see out a result for the second match in succession. He added: “Obviously it’s frustrating as getting ahead with little time left, you expect to win the game, and it’s a bit of déjà vu from Saturday.

“The players have worked really hard but not to get three points today is proper gutting.”

Both sides are in FA Cup action this weekend, with Loxwood hosting Abbey Rangers. Meanwhile Broadbridge Heath have been handed a plum tie against Punjab United – a game which will be broadcast live on the BBC sport website, app and iPlayer.

Broadbridge Heath: Trigwell, Flack, Robinson, Maxwell (Godfrey 64), Tuck, Carney, Bold, Weller (Watts 70), Cousins, Taylor, Howell. Unused: Jones, Whiteley.

Loxwood: Matthews, Courtney, Jenkins, Hawkes (Smith 64), Beda, Slaughter, Frankland, Hards, Gritt (Karl 52 (Campbell-Francis 68)), Brodie, Goldson. Unused: Garner, Popham.