Burgess Hill continued their unbeaten Ryman South campaign on Wednesday evening with an assured 2-1 victory over Tooting & Mitcham.
Sam Fisk opened the scoring for the Hillians, before Billy Marshall then equalised moments before half-time. Fisk then turned provider for Burgess Hill’s second, as Rob O’Toole ensured that Ian Chapman’s men picked up all three points.
With both sides working relentlessly to stamp their authority early on, the middle of the park was turned in to a scrappy affair; with the 310 in attendance forced to witness seemingly never-ending rallies of head tennis and very few spells of controlled possession.
Consequently, all the early exchanges that showed promise were created when the ball was eventually worked out on to the flanks. Burgess Hill showed far greater proficiency in this pursuit, and it began to pay dividends as the Hill started to cause problems for the visiting defence.
Following a passage of play down the left, the home side earned a series of corners, the second of which almost gave them their breakthrough. A well-worked set-piece saw captain Darren Budd, on his 100th appearance for the cub, set the ball back to the edge of the penalty area, where Neil Watts then unleashed a superb volley towards goal. However, the man on the post for the visitors was able to clear the danger away.
Burgess Hill could now smell blood and began to attack with more vigour. And it wasn’t long until they eventually took the lead. The dynamic attacking trio of Greg Luer, O’Toole and Budd linked up on the edge of the visiting area, before Budd then altered the direction of the play, notching an intelligent pass to his left, to find the far more unusual source of the onrushing Fisk, who belted a strike low across the goalkeeper to give Hill the lead.
Despite falling behind, the visitors were keen to show that they had firepower of their own. And Solomon Pinnock oscillated past two outstretched Hill legs on the right flank, before whipping a warning sign just wide of Josh James’ far post.
Now aware of the frailty of their lead, the home side continued to press on. Luer found himself in space on the right, and was able to bring the ball down impeccably and cross back towards the far post, however the marauding Fisk was unable to make the right connection with the ball and scuffed his effort high and wide.
Burgess Hill were then made to rue these missed opportunities, as the visitors equalised moments before half-time. Breaking down the left, the ball fell to the feet of Marshall in the corner of the penalty area, and the forward turned on a sixpence before lashing a strike into the corner of James’ far post to level proceedings.
Both sides appeared to have reached a stalemate at the opening of the second half. O’Toole fired wide of the post from the edge of the area, and Tooting’s Pinnock continued to cause problems for the Hillmans, but there was a growing agitation amongst the home support that they may have to settle for a point.
That was not to be the case, however, and on the 70 minute mark Ian Chapman’s men found a winner. Fisk crossed from deep on the left to find O’Toole, and the imposing forward headed in at the near post to claim his 7th of the season.
With three points finally in sight, the Hillians began to close out the game. There was a brief scare as Tom Jelley appeared to break through one-on-one with James, however he was felled at the final moment and the referee waved away any penalty protestations.
Tooting continued to bombard the Burgess Hill defence in the closing moments of the game, however the Hillians showed great mettle to keep the visitors at bay and maintain their unbeaten position at the top of the table.
Hillians: Josh James, Neil Watts, Sam Fisk, Andy Pearson, Toby Pointing, Darren Budd (Graham Martin 65), Scott Kirkwood, Joe Keehan, Rob O’Toole, Greg Luer (Lee Harding 57), Pat Harding
Not used: Dann Perry, Sam Gore & Stuart Tuck