Mile Oak Football Club’s promotion hopes suffered a blow when they lost 4-2 away to a physical and well organised Langney Wanderers side on Tuesday.
The defeat could prove pivotal in the end of season shake up in Southern Combination League Division 1 as high-flying Oak slipped to an eighth league loss and saw promotion rivals Oakwood and Crawley Down both pick up maximum points.
The former leapfrogged Anthony Whittington’s team, who are now fifth and without a win in three games, having previously gone 12 unbeaten.
The match was played at The Saffrons, home of Eastbourne Town, and Oak made an excellent start and went close early on through Eric Wedge-Bull and Jack Arnold.
Oak’s bright start was rewarded and they went ahead on 21 minutes when Arnold finished from close range after Liam Austin-Slade picked him out.
Mile Oak striker Danny Curd fired wide, while Shane Saunders and Adam Byrne forced smart saves from Aaron Stenning at the other end.
Oak’s early lead evaporated with three goals in quick succession from the home side by half-time. First, Wayne Wilkinson played in Saunders to equalise on 35 minutes and seven minutes further on, Langney took the lead for the first time when Dale Penn headed home from close range.
Wanderers were dominant now and moved 3-1 ahead on the stroke of half-time through Marcus Allen, who drilled in a good strike from distance to give his side a two-goal advantage at the interval.
That quickfire treble effectively ended the game as a contest but Adam Dine’s deflected effort forced a smart stop from Graham Leach as Oak searched for a way back.
It was not to be, however, and instead it was Langney who stretched their advantage with a quarter of the match still to play. Substitute Jamie Weston went down under a challenge from Nick Lansdale and Paul Rogers made no mistake from the penalty spot.
Paul Weatherby was kept out by Stenning and Oak’s Michael Gould flashed an effort inches over the top, before Oak substitute Karl Gillingham reduced the arrears with 15 minutes remaining.
His close-range finish from a Curd flick proved to be too little too late and nothing more than a consolation as Langney comfortably saw out the game.
Oak boss Anthony Whittington said: “We started well but didn’t cope with their set-pieces and they scored three goals from second balls.
“For two thirds of the game, I thought we were the better side but we just gave them too many goals.
“At 4-2, we had a couple of opportunities to get back in the game as Danny had one cleared off the line and we had a few goalmouth scrambles.
“If we’d got one back then, it would have put the pressure on them but it wasn’t to be.”
Oak travel to league champions Haywards Heath on Saturday and then host Lingfield in the Division 1 Cup on Wednesday.
MILE OAK: Stenning; Lansdale, Whiting, Pollard, Austin-Slade; Arnold, French, Garrod, Wedge-Bull; Dine, Curd. Subs: Gillingham, Gould (Pollard, Dine 64), Hall (Arnold 70), Pulling, Bridge.
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