The Cats were looking to bounce back from their first defeat of the season to the hands of Bexhill United two weeks ago when they locked horns with Hailsham Athletico at The Rec on Saturday. This was the second meeting between the sides this season – Catsfield coming out on top in the first fixture with a comfortable 3-0 opening day win. Manager Nick Gurr continued to make use of his extensive squad by naming a strong squad of 15.
Catsfield reverted to the classic 4-4-2 formation, a formation that saw much success in the first tie between these two sides. A host of changes to the starting line-up from the Bexhill game also showed how much strength-in-depth the Cats could boast this season.
D. Champion continued in goal with three changes to the back four in front of him. T. Luke was partnered in central defence by G. Crathern, in what was the latter’s final game before starting at university. Two more changes from the Bexhill game at right and left back saw P. Rollison switching from central midfield to right back and A. Manning slotting in at left back.
The midfield had some familiarity about it as K. Manning and D. Booth continued their impressive central midfield partnership with B. Thwaites starting down the left and the returning J. Vincent starting down the right.
S. Harris returned up front being partnered by J. Jones, the latter’s first competitive appearance this season as work commitments had prevented him from featuring earlier.
W. Thwaites, M. Rawlings and R. Madge were named as the Catsfield subs.
The game started at a slow pace despite the surface being slick and zippy – neither team stringing more than 2 or 3 passes together in the opening few minutes. It was then the visitors who took the lead in the 4th minute when a hopeful angled ball from right to left was misjudged by Rollison and latched on to by the Hailsham striker. The Cats makeshift right back recovered however and the half chance looked to have gone. The visiting striker then proceeded to unleash a 30-yard thunderbolt from an outrageous angle that beat D. Champion before he even had a chance to react. Catsfield caught cold in the opening minutes. 0-1.
The lead lasted a mere 10 minutes, however. After a host of Catsfield pressure that saw 3 or 4 shots from the edge of the area spilt every time by the Hailsham goalkeeper, the home sides tactic became to shoot on sight. The Cats then won a direct free kick 30-yards out. Luke blasted the free kick towards goal – skimming off the surface before the goalkeeper could only parry it in to the inside netting. 1-1.
Harris then went close when he headed a high, looping cross just wide of the post. The home side then took the lead in the 19th minute when Harris received and turned with the ball before clipping a delightful ball over the defence to Jones who only needed one touch to control and another touch to blast the ball in to the bottom left corner. 2-1.
In what would turn out to be a goal crazy afternoon, it was then the visitors who struck back on the half hour mark when a speculative shot was parried by D. Champion only for the onrushing Hailsham striker to slot home the resulting rebound. 2-2. Catsfield were certainly on top in terms of possession and chances created even though the scoreboard told otherwise. It looked as though the two teams were going in to the break honours even until a headed clearance was controlled by Jones on the edge of the box 5 minutes before half time. He then rifled an unstoppable shot in to the bottom left hand corner to send the home side in to a deserved lead. 3-2 at the break.
Catsfield began the second half in the same fashion as they ended the first, dominating possession with the majority of action all happening in the Hailsham half. It only took the Cats 4 second half minutes to score again. A low cross in to the box from B. Thwaites was met at the back post by Vincent who prodded a left foot shot home from 5 yards. 4-2.
4-2 became 5-2 ten minutes later when Jones found himself unmarked in the box – showing good composure to bring the ball down and bury the ball in the bottom right hand corner, completing his hat trick in the process. Two minutes later it was K. Manning who got in on the act when a quick corner from B. Thwaites found the former on the edge of the box. His effort was a tame one however but the goalkeeper flapped haplessly at it, seeing it go through his hands and in to the back of the net. 6-2.
Manager Nick Gurr then made his substitutions – Madge coming on in a straight swap for Luke at centre back on the hour mark with Rawlings and W. Thwaites replacing B. Thwaites and Jones in straight swaps 5 minutes later. The Cats weren’t finished on the goalscoring front just yet though as a couple of minutes later saw another cross not being dealt with in the Hailsham box, Vincent and Rawlings both bundling the ball over the line from 2 yards with the former wheeling away in celebration. 7-2.
It was then Vincent’s turn to complete his hat trick which also saw the Cats complete their second half rout on the 71st minute. After showing great feet in the box, Vincent then made half a yard for himself before thundering a left foot effort in to the top corner via the underside of the crossbar. 8-2.
The remaining 20 odd minutes saw a flurry of chances for a consolation goal for the away side but D. Champion thwarted them on every occasion. Blocking well twice before an excellent left handed save saw him deny Hailsham from getting their third. The referee then blew up for full time – completing another great team performance from the Cats. A 10 goal thriller in which Catsfield scored 8 – a feat that has not been seen in a fair few years.
With Catsfield well and truly making their mark on Division 3, its exciting times as they will be looking up the table rather than over their shoulders for the first time in a few seasons. The Cats currently sit in 3rd after this game, 3 points behind both Bexhill Rovers and league leaders Pebsham Sibex, although Catsfield have a game in hand over Rovers. The Cats have yet another home game next week as they face Battle Baptists II’s, who are currently bottom after their P:4, W:0, D:2, L:2 start. The Pests will be looking for yet another 3 points as promotion and the possibility of a title challenge become a more and more realistic target.
FT: Catsfield 8-2 Hailsham Athletico
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