Signs are good as Billingshurst close the gap on leaders

DM15226670a.jpg Football: Billingshurst v Montpelier Villa. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-151114-164943008

DM15226670a.jpg Football: Billingshurst v Montpelier Villa. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-151114-164943008

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Billingshurst manager Adie Konieczny feels the signs are good as his side went level with leaders Roffey despite not yet hitting top gear.

Hurst’s narrow 2-1 win from an eventful derby at home to Alfold sent them second only to the front-runner’s impressive goal difference.

Konieczny has hinted his side are up for the title race after having found themselves second without playing to the best of their ability yet.

He said: “I feel there is still a lot more to come. To be level on points at the top without reaching the heights I feel the team can achieve, bodes well for the rest of the season.”

Hurst had to play into a blustery wind in the first half and had no problem adapting to the difficult conditions as they put early pressure on the visitors goal.

Nick Tilley headed the first chance over from a Remi Thomas cross, before Ryan Carse connected with a Jordan Saunders ball, but goalkeeper Ryan Matthews claimed the effort.

At the other end, James Still fired over from range and was then thwarted by an impeccably-timed tackle by Pete Proto.

Hurst took the lead on 20 minutes as Thomas cut inside and crossed having spotted Elliott Hawkes’s run into the box, and his left-foot volley from six yards gave the keeper no chance.

As with the first half, the wind wasn’t favouring the side playing with it and Hurst were struggling to find their level from the first half as the visitors upped their game.

The second goal came on the hour mark following some neat team play as Billy Lannon turned provider and laid the ball back to Tilley, whose sumptuous strike from 20 yards found the far corner.

The visitors were given a lifeline on 65 minutes as Ryan Pelham went to challenge for the ball with Proto and with both players grappling each other, the referee blew his whistle and pointed to the spot - despite no appeals.

Pelham’s low spot kick down the middle was saved by Tom Betts, only for the Alfold man to follow-up with the rebound to make it 2-1.

Alfold then scored what they thought was the equaliser as Ben Thompsett raced on to a long ball and finished smartly to cue wild celebrations, but they were cut short by an offside flag.

The Hurst defence continued to stand firm after that, although a long free-kick from Tom May did cause confusion as it sailed agonisingly wide.

n There was no change in first or third place as the top-of-the-table derby between Roffey and Cowfold ended level.

Christian Stevens hit an 87th-minute equaliser to level up Devon Fender’s opener five minutes before half-time.

Roffey also finished the match with ten men after Dan Dunster was sent off.

n Basement side AFC Roffey lost 2-0 to fourth-placed Rottingdean Village on Saturday. Manager Terry Eames has left the club, see page 91.