Describing a 5-1 victory as fortunate may stretch the bounds of credulity somewhat, yet Burgess Hill Town’s victory over Beaconsfield SYCOB-that’s Beaconsfield Slough Youth Centre Old Boys Football Club to give them their full title- in the First Qualifying Round of the FA Trophy had many elements of good fortune. It also had one player who made such a difference that at times he seemed to be everywhere, scoring two goals, setting up two more, making decisive tackles and delivering defence-splitting passes as if they were easy, whilst all the while encouraging and coaching his less experienced team mates to help them improve their game.
That Dean Cox is too good to be playing in the Ryman Premier League- and, indeed, the qualifying rounds of the FA Trophy- has never been in doubt. A Crawley Town player who joined the Red Devils from Leyton Orient after the transfer window closed, Cox is nominally at Burgess Hill Town simply to maintain his match fitness prior to stepping into the CTFC squad on January 2nd. This is an arrangement that suits the player, who lives locally, and both teams, and Cox would undoubtedly be the best player at Leylands Park even if he did little more than stroll around. To his credit, however, strolling around isn’t his thing. He hasn’t stopped running since his arrival, and his performance in this particular match was undoubtedly worth the admission fee on its own. It certainly had the crowd- and Burgess Hill Town manager Ian Chapman- running out of superlatives.
Beaconsfield SYCOB- or ‘That English Team’ as they may be known in Scottish Pubs and Monchengladbach- have far more talent in their side than their result in this match (and, indeed, their entire league season, where they have won only one game)- would suggest. Two of their players, midfielder Ryan Hill and forward Ollie McCoy- had just returned from trials with Premier League Stoke City, and both demonstrated why Mark Hughes side would be interested during a frantic first thirty five minutes when their side could easily have been ahead. Hill, particularly, was superb, and his performance during this period rivalled that of Cox as both teams strove to take control.
Town were fortunate to take the lead in the fifth minute. Cox swung over a corner from the right, and the ball reached Chris Smith at the far side of the box. Smith hit the ball low and hard, but it appeared to be going wide before a defenders outstretched leg deflected it past Sam Bunting in the Beaconsfield goal.
The away side- apparently poised to assist writers, commentators and signmakers by changing their name to Beaconsfield Town in the summer- were not downhearted. Their league form may have been awful but their cup form has bucked that trend, with them reaching the 4th Qualifying Round of the FA Cup before succumbing to defeat against National League North Brackley Town, and they roared back into this match with Ryan Hill at the forefront. A superb crossfield run which left midfielders and defenders trailing in his wake led to a cross which saw Nathan Minhas have an effort cleared off the line, but mere seconds later the same combination saw Minhas head home the equaliser. This was not undeserved, and nine minutes later McCoy ran through almost the entire Burgess Hill defence before being robbed by Dean Cox on the penalty spot just as he was about to shoot. Beaconsfield’s Callum Bunting then had two opportunities to put his side into the lead, lifting one shot over the bar before placing another just wide of the right-hand post. The away side were in the ascendency, and the Hillians were struggling to keep them at bay. But then Cox took over.
In the 37th minute a ball was lofted towards the head of Brighton and Hove Albion loan signing Jonah Ayunga. Under pressure, Ayunga did well to cushion the ball back to Cox on the edge of the box, and what came next was sublime. Cox shaped his body and delivered a volley that had the two hundred and twenty-six spectators- and his team mates- spellbound as it headed unerringly for the corner of the net. Eight minutes later and it was three, as Cox got to the byline before pulling the ball back for an onrushing Sam Fisk to fire home.
Beaconsfield didn’t give up, and Ryan Hill continued to be at the centre of their best moves. In the 51st minute he ran half the length of the field with the ball before bringing a cynical foul- which earned a yellow card- from James Richmond. But then, just as it seemed that the away side might yet find their way back into the match, Cox took control again, setting up the fourth goal with an incisive through ball which Ayunga flicked beautifully over the advancing keeper. At this SYCOB manager Leigh Wooldridge decided to withdraw Hill, and the young midfielder responded with a tirade of foul language which proved conclusively that, despite his obvious talent, he still had quite a bit of growing up to do. His opposite number, a veteran of three hundred and twenty-six Football League appearances despite still being only 29 years old, spent the rest of the match demonstrating that class is about more than just skill, encouraging and directing his team mates before pouncing on a goalkeeping error to tap home Burgess Hill’s fifth- and his second- two minutes into added time.
After the match, Burgess Hill Town manager Ian Chapman was rather philosophical about the result. “I think it was a bit of an injustice that we came in three-one up at half time,” he explained. “We gave the ball away too sloppily, but fortunately they missed a couple of good chances and then Dean Cox scored an absolute worldy to put us back in front before setting up the third one as well. I don’t want to be harsh on the players, we’re through to the next round and that’s great, but if we’d played a side in our league we’d have got beaten today.”
Chapman was also positive about the contribution of Ayunga, 19, who started his second game of a month’s loan. “With each game he’s getting better,” he explained. “It’s great he’s got a goal, and I thought he was a real handful all day.”
But this day was all about Dean Cox, and Crawley Town fans will be rubbing their hands in glee as his arrival date at the Checkatrade.com Stadium gets closer.
Published on in Cup.