Eastbourne Town triumphed in a feisty and often ill-tempered Boxing Day local derby against Eastbourne United at the Oval.
Six yellow and two red cards were issued as heavy tackles, the odd elbow and a few punches were traded between the feuding neighbours.
But crucially it was three second half goals from John Lambert’s Town side that proved decisive on a heavy pitch.
Jason Taylor opened the scoring for the visitors on 55 minutes but United levelled thanks to a thumping header from defender Adam Davidson.
Evan Archiblad fired in from close range to make it 2-1 and a third from Aaron Capon completed the scoring.
In between the goals there were straight red cards for Town’s Sam Willett for a dangerous tackle and for United’s Bailo Camara who punched keeper Greg Nessling in the face as they tussled on the floor.
A decent crowd of around 300 arrived at a bright but cold Oval to watch two sides competing at the top end of the Southern Combination Premier - this however was not the day for flowing football. The first half was a stop-start affair punctuated by regular fouls in what proved a difficult afternoon for the referee.
United right back Luke Denton set the tone as he clattered into Jason Taylor and became the first of four United players booked in the first half - the names of Liam Baitup, Danny Andrews and Camara soon joined him in the referee’s book.
The first half was high intensity but low quality. Ethan Strevett had some decent touches for Town in the midfield while United’s debutant left back Jack Troak looked a very capable performer among the chaos.
Town opened the scoring 10 minutes after the interval. A scuffed corner wasn’t cleared and Taylor emerged from the crowd to bundle home the ball from close range.
Full back David Smart had a tough afternoon against United’s most creative player Camara. Smart was booked for a rash challenge on the tricky wideman and from the resultant freekick, Davisdson, sporting a Terry Butcher style bandage after cutting his head in the first half, powerfully headed beyond Town keeper Nessling.
It was the best period of the match. For once the game flowed as both teams went on the attack but it was Town who struck as Archibald rifled an effort into the roof of the net.
Willett was then given his marching orders for a two-footed tackle but Camara scuppered United’s hopes of taking advantage as he was sent off for needlessly lashing out at Nessling as the two landed in a heap together after a challenging for a high ball.
A third goal from Capon was perhaps harsh on United who battled well but found it difficult to break through a resolute Town rearguard.
Town boss Lambert said, “I thought we deserved it in the end. It was a battle, a typical local derby.
“We stood up to it well and the goals arrived at the right time for us. Full credit to the players it was not an easy match but they found a way to win, sometimes, especially in games like this, that’s all that matters.”
Hutchinson added, “When the game was allowed to flow we were the better team. But the referee made the game a very stop-start match and that suited Town.
“They are only a threat from set-pieces and that’s what’s won them the game.
“I disappointed we could not impose our game more on them but that sometimes happens in the derby.
“Obviously we are disappointed but we had positives as well. Our target at the start if the year was top six and to finish above Town, I still think we can do that.”
UNITED: Hawkins, Denton (Paul), Featherstone, Davidson, Troak, Hollobone, Andrews (Dove), Summerbell, Hart (Lee), Baitup, Camara.
TOWN: Nessling, Foster, Smart (Smith), Bolwell, Rogers, Sherriff, Taylor (Cumming-Bart), Strevett, Archibald, Willett, Capon.