Clack clicks to put Haywards Heath on top - Napper is rewarded for Blues century
Haywards Heath returned to the top of the table, and to winning ways, after beating Chichester City by a single goal on Tuesday night, in the Isthmian League South East division at Hanbury Park.
There was a minute's silence prior to the game in remembrance of John Langridge, a Blues league winning skipper from the 60s and 70s, who sadly passed last week, aged 74.
Having fired blanks in their last two games, and having lost their unbeaten league run after last Saturday's defeat against Herne Bay FC, the Blues started this game in determined mood. Playing with an aggression that had been missing lately and at a high tempo, it was the home team that made a lot of the early running. Chances came and went for both sides in an entertaining first period but good approach play was often let down by a lack of cutting edge.
The exception to this came on 27 minutes with a goal of real quality. Josh Clack was signed earlier this season from Chichester City and it was he who put his old team mates to the sword, scoring a goal worthy of winning any game. Collecting the ball on the right touchline, the impressive Clack cut inside one defender, he then did the same to another, as his run took him across the Chichester penalty box, having created space to fire in a shot, Clack then unleashed an exocet of a strike that left visiting 'keeper, Kieran Magee, rooted to the spot as the ball nearly burst the net.
Unlike the Herne Bay game, where Heath seemed to play deeper and deeper in the second half, this was quite the opposite, as Haywards Heath dominated the second 45. The Blues went in search of a second goal but they were thwarted by Magee in the Chi goal and by some profligate finishing. Jerson dos Santos had a couple of good chances, from the first he fired at the keeper, the second was headed powerfully goalward, but the crossbar came to Chichester's rescue. The ever industrious, Kieran Rowe, fired in a piledriver that was deflected to safety as the hosts sought that illusive second goal to settle the nerves of players, management and fans in the attendance of 225.
There were two strong penalty appeals turned away by the excellent match referee, Farai Hallam. The first saw Rowe bundled to the ground and the second saw the referee judge the ball hit a defender's chest while Blues players were convinced it was a definite handball. Substitute, Luke Robinson, brought extra energy to proceedings and he fired in a shot that was just touched into the net by Gil Carvalho. Robinson's effort was going in and it would have counted bar being touched by the unfortunate and offside Carvalho. The final opportunity also fell to the willing Carvalho, who fired over from a yard as the Heath forwards developed a 3 on to 1 scenario.
It wasn't to be and the brilliant Clack strike separated the sides at the end of play. Heath returned to the league summit and Chichester returned to the west of the county, having played their part in an entertaining game.
After the game, attending Isthmian League Chairman, Nick Robinson, presented Blues boss, Shaun Saunders, with his Manager of the Month award for August.
A happy and satisfied Saunders said: " It's great to get back to winning ways. The lads worked really hard tonight, in possession and out of possession. We pressed well, closed down effectively and won lots of ball back. With a bit more care and composure we might have had 2 or 3 more goals but I'm quite pleased it was only the one goal because Josh's goal deserved to win any game and, here, tonight, it did just that. After a couple of disappointing results, we are all looking forward to Saturday's visit to Three Bridges now."
Blues Starman : Josh CLACK - a brilliant match winning goal
* Haywards Heath Town lost their unbeaten Isthmian League run and their 100% home league record as they fell to a decent Herne Bay side at Hanbury Park.
But they returned to winning ways on Tuesday night with a 1-0 home victory over Chichester that put them back in top spot.
Before Saturday’s game Byron Napper was presented with a silver salver, having reached 100 appearances for the Blues.
All was going well for the first 30 minutes of an open and free-flowing game. Each side looked to get it down and pass and the top of the table clash was played in a fair and competitive manner.
Luke Robinson missed a golden chance on 15 minutes to put the hosts in front - he rolled the ball wide as Heath made the early running.
Jordan Clarke had the best chance of the half but having created the opportunity himself, he blasted over, having run clear of the Herne Bay defence.
In front of 411, an even and entertaining half ended scoreless.
A subdued home side sat deeper and deeper through the second period and found chances hard to come by; the Kent side, however, grew in confidence and started dominating possession and play.
Herne Bay’s enterprise was rewarded on 74 minutes as they scored the only goal of the game. Following some fine interplay on their left, the ball was crossed to the far post where Ryan Cooper had the easiest of chances.
A resilient and resolute Herne Bay took the spoils back to their home,leaving Haywards Heath, knocked off the top spot in the table, to regroup.
Blues boss Shaun Saunders said: “We are all very disappointed to have lost that match. We had a couple of fantastic chances in the first period but we never took them and a goal would have stopped Herne Bay’s progression. We go back, we dust ourselves off and we start again.”
Star man: Byron Napper