By Ian Townsend
Burgess Hill Town saw their eleven match unbeaten run comprehensively ended by National League Dover Athletic at the Green Elephants Stadium and departed the FA Cup in the fourth Qualifying Round for the second time in three years.
They fell behind in the 9th minute. Athletic striker Ricky Miller, who had already scored ten goals this season, picked up number eleven, allowed space on the edge of the box to control the ball from a Ricky Modeste layoff and shoot fiercely into the bottom corner.
Hill weren’t helped by losing first centre-back, Sam Fisk -and then his replacement James Richmond- to injury inside twenty minutes, but such was Dover’s control of the first half that it was surprising that it took until 32nd minute for them to increase their lead, when Jim Stevenson crossed for Mitch Pinnock to fire hard and low past keeper Alan Walker-Harris for number two. The third came as we approached halftime when Miller left Joey Taylor on his backside near the corner flag, cut inside and fired a shot towards the bottom corner, with Ricky Modeste on hand to force it over the line after the keeper got a hand to it.
The second half very much followed the pattern of the first. In the 50th minute, fine work between Modeste and Miller set up substitute Tyrone Marsh for a simple finish to make it four, and nine minutes later a mix up between Walker-Harris and Cheick Toure allowed an almost embarrassed Miller a free run towards an empty net and Dover were five goals to the good.
The last half hour saw Hill finally getting to grips with the game. Twice good work from Lee Harding was foiled by excellent saves from an only partially fit Mitch Walker, and striker Pat Harding also had two chances, one which was saved just under the bar and another that sailed wide, but Dover held out to record a comprehensive victory.
After the match, Hillians manager Ian Chapman was disappointed but philosophical. “They play a certain way, with pace and power, and they’re good at it. We just couldn’t deal with it. If you don’t defend effectively and get your shape quickly they are set up to exploit that, and for two of the first three goals, we didn’t do things quickly enough.
“The game was over at halftime, three-nil down against a side two leagues above us, and we were just playing for a bit of pride. I was pleased that in the second half we kept our heads, but we still gave two really poor goals away.
“The last ten minutes we had a bit of a go and we had a couple of chances, and their keeper made a good save from Lee Harding. Lee was a bit frustrated today and didn’t have such a good game, but he’s been really good for us lately and he kept at it. He’s still young, and a game like today will be a good learning experience for a few of my young players who have the ambition to get on in their careers.
“Sometimes in football you just have to accept that the other team is better than you. Today, they were a lot better than us.
“I’ve no complaints, we deserved to get beaten.”
Burgess Hill resume their Ryman Premier League campaign next Saturday at home to Needham Market, kick-off 3pm.