The Lions may have roared and the Bears growled, but in the end the two sides began the New Year with a point apiece in a game which was better than the scoreline suggests.
Pagham had to do without Scott Murfin, among others, as he was suspended after his red card against Chichester on Boxing Day. Dan Simmonds joined Howard Neighbour up front to spearhead the Lions’ attack.
Simmonds’ involvement only lasted just over half an hour - he was brought off as a precaution after picking up an injury. Prior to that he’d had a good game, with shots aplenty including one on 23 minutes which poleaxed Broadbridge skipper Tom Howard-Bold.
Bookings and decisions by the officials dominated the game, enraging the visitors’ bench and bemusing both sets of fans. Howard-Bold lived up to his name early on as he and Pagham keeper James Binfield collided in the area. Binfield had hold of the ball at the time, and Howard-Bold’s loud protests made no difference to the referee, and into the book he went.
Both keepers were kept busy, Binfield perhaps the busiest as the visitors were quickest on the break for most of the match. Connor Evento wasn’t idle in the other goal, with Pagham striving to get an opening. Joe Ashmore was looking particularly lively for the Lions.
Neighbour was making a real nuisance of himself up front, stretching the Bears’ defence with every attack. As the first half drew to a close, Ashmore and Neighbour combined well. A ball in from Neighbour was controlled by Ashmore, only for his shot to be collected by a grateful Evento.
After the break Daryl Wollers was pressed into action almost from the off. The Lions defender had to be at his best to clear from George Cousins after a run from Howard-Bold, who fed Dean Wright before Cousins struck goalwards.
Ten minutes in and Broadbridge’s Lee Carney went down heavily. Many felt he may have dived, only for his blood-stained cut lip to suggest a Pagham elbow may have helped him to the ground. Much protesting followed, with Carney not happy with the cat-calls from the crowd. He was substituted a short while later.
Midway through the half Ashmore could have struck twice, a shot across Evento’s goal and a deflected shot deserving more. Ryan Davidson raced through on goal only for a shot to go over the bar.
Pagham man of the match Lewis Hyde showed again strength in the centre of defence, his ball-playing skills keeping the momentum going for Pagham. He even had a shot on goal himself, hitting a good strike on 70 minutes. Unfortunately for him and Pagham, Evento was again in the way.
The Lions scythed through the Bears’ defence with just over ten minutes left. But with Evento out of position, up went the offside flag to kill off the chance. The last period of play had both sides desparate for a goal, Binfield getting down really well to save on 80 minutes. With two minutes of normal time left he did it again, blocking an Ollie Moore shot.
With the game moving into inujury time, Evento made the last save of the game. A last-ditch clearance again kept the Lions from roaring to victory... not the best way to warm up for Tuesday’s Sussex Senior Cup visit of Burgess Hill, but there were signs of promise in the Lions ranks.
Pagham; Binfied, Williamson, Hyde, R Davidson, Wollers, Horncastle, Van Driel (Hubbard 88), Ashmore, Simmonds (Wiggans 37),Neighbour, Cox. Subs: Brazil, Hendrick
Broadbridge Heath: Evento, Wetton, Robinson, Waddingham, Brackpool, Howard-Bold, Carney (Weller 71), Moore, Wright, Cousins, Fender. Subs: Leach, Jones