United slip as Loxwood hit top-form at the Oval

Eastbourne United battle for the ball as they slip to a 2-0 defeat to Loxwood.
Eastbourne United battle for the ball as they slip to a 2-0 defeat to Loxwood.
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A goal at the end of both halves was enough for in-form Loxwood to leave The Oval with three points as they beat Eastbourne United AFC.

United welcomed back top scorer Pete Cooper to the starting line up in place of Billy Trickett, with Simon Catt dropping back to a more familiar midfield role.

There was also a return to the bench for veteran winger Nick Barden who hadn’t been part of the match day squad since December 20.

Loxwood came to The Oval on the back of six successive league victories, including four clean sheets, so were full of confidence.

United enjoyed much of the early possession with Gianluca Del-Gaudio looking the most dangerous attacking option for the home side. For all of United’s early possession, it was the visitors who had the game’s first clear cut chance as Damon Aston fired wide when well-placed following a neat one-two.

From the resultant goal kick, United attacked through Del-Gaudio and he fed a ball inside to Cooper who forced the impressive Sam Smith in the Loxwood goal into a diving save.

Cooper again came close from the corner that followed as he just lifted Shaun Lee’s flick-on over the crossbar.

Further chances in the half fell to Cooper and strike partner Liam Baitup, but United just weren’t able to show a killer instinct in front of goal. United were punished as half time approached when a cross-cum-shot from Phil Awcock looped over a stranded Lee Daubeney.

Further chances fell to the strike duo of Cooper and Liam Baitup at the start of the second half as the closest United came to scoring was when Cooper’s 25 yard free kick went just over the bar.

Aston began to find his range for the visitors and forced Daubeney into a sharp save on 58 minutes. United again tested visiting ‘keeper Smith as a drilled Pete Featherstone cross evaded everybody in the penalty area and Smith reacted well to grasp the bouncing ball.

Veteran Nick Barden was introduced to the action on 75 minutes to add a bit of experience to the side, but wasn’t able to recreate the heroics of his last league performance against Bexhill United.

The game was put beyond doubt as full-time approached when a mistake in the United defence allowed Aston in to score into an empty net.