Three Bridges 1st 2 - 2 Pagham
Bridges hold on for a draw with just 8 men left on the pitch
Having recovered from 0-2 down, Bridges then had to spend half an hour playing with only eight men against ten and gained a draw thanks to a determined defensive display.
The game started sensationally enough as Kieron Thorp was forced to a last ditch clearance, but Callum Overton showed remarkable presence of mind to hit the loose ball home from 30 yards to give Pagham the lead inside the first minute. Thorp then held on to a curler from Lloyd Rowlatt before conceding a 10th minute penalty and earning the first caution of a busy night for referee Jonathon Wilks. Up stepped Dan Simmonds, but his spot kick hit the post and spun away to safety.
Thorp was forced to a tremendous tip over save from Simmonds, and at last Bridges responded with a lovely move involving Nathan Crabb and Liam Collins which ended with George Gaskin's header being comfortably gathered by keeper James Binfield. Jamie Crellin headed wide from a John Lansdale free kick and Gaskin wasted a good chance, which looked as though it might prove vital when Simmonds steered home a 45th minute shot after James Thurgar had broken through, evaded Thorp and clipped the ball back.
The opening five minutes of the second half saw the game turned on its head as Bridges stunned the visitors with two goals in a minute. Gaskin curled the first one home after 49 minutes and a long throw by Lansdale was headed in at the near post by Crellin. Bridges were now in the ascendancy with the excellent Lee Hall hitting a post, Connor French having a shot turned away by Binfield and Lansdale seeing a free kick held.
However, on the hour it all went terribly wrong. Nathan Simpson, on the ground following a foul by Simmonds found himself then stamped on by the player, this leading to a mass brawl with even the Pagham bench and substitutes running onto the pitch to join in! Despite players from both sides pushing and shoving, the referee determined that three Bridges players - Simpson, Darryl Siaw and French - were worthy of straight red cards whilst Simmonds was the only Pagham player to go for two yellow cards, one for the stamp and one for being involved in the mini riot!
It then became a matter for Bridges to defend with their lives, and the now back three of Collins, Bradley Peters and the immaculate Crellin led the way in this admirable defiance. Two more Pagham players joined in the bookings after Lansdale limped off following a naughty challenge.
Thorp wasn't seriously tested as Pagham tried to take advantage of their numerical superiority, and Bridges could feel that they had made a brilliant comeback in the face of adversity.
Aerotron Man of the Match: Jamie Crellin
Referee: Jonathon Wilks
Report by Alf Blackler