It took an injury time penalty for Haywards Heath Town to claim the points against a solid Crawley Down Gatwick side at Hanbury today.
The day kicked off with the official opening of the Roy Hatt family stand which is a fitting tribute to a man and family that have done so much for the club over so many years.
Once the football started Heath were looking to continue their great home form but their opponent who as they did last season would prove to be tough competitors.
Early exchanges saw Heath with plenty of possession but unable to penetrate the 10 men CDG had behind the ball and it was the visitors with the best opportunity of the game on 12 minutes with the CDG striker pouncing on a loose back pass from Nathan Cooper but James Shaw was quickly out and made a smart save down low to keep the score level.
Heath started to carve out some half chances and Josh Spinks couldn’t direct his header on target on 14 minutes.
The game was low on goal mouth action through the mid-point of the half with CDG flash a ball wide and Nathan Cooper trying from 25 yards but the keeper made a good save low down to his right.
Heath’s best chance of the half fell to the prolific Trevor McCreadie on 33 minutes but his header from a Luc Doherty cross just cleared the bar.
Big talking part of the half saw Callum Saunders fouled on 39 minutes, it looked to be a good yard inside the box but the referee gave a free kick just outside the box, Callum Saunders then worked the keeper well from the kick as he punched the ball clear.
Just as the half was coming to an end Max Miller saw his header clear the bar in what was becoming a frustrating day for Heath.
The visitors were out early and raring to go, they had their game plan and it looked to be working so far but Heath needed to turn possession into chances which they started to do straight away.
Skipper Nathan Cooper got on the end of a Heath free kick with the half just a minute old but his header cleared the bar. Callum Saunders was next to hit the target but again the keeper was equal to it and saved well down low.
On 56 minutes Max Miller finally found some space but his powerful strike lacked the required accuracy and flew high and wide.
On the hour the visitors had a great chance to open the scoring as the striker ran clear but again it was James Shaw to the rescue of Heath and he pulled of a fine save. Just three minutes later they had another chance but the strike lacked direction and went harmlessly wide.
Heath had another good shout for a penalty waved away as the referee deemed ball to hand and not hand to ball. The pressure was building and Kane Louis could only turn the ball wide from close range before Max Miller seemed to be harshly judged offside when played in an through on goal.
On 71 minutes another big chance for the visitors as the CDG player got up to meet a corner well but the header hit the top of the crossbar.
Heath switched formations on 73 minutes with Tome Graves replacing Luc Doherty.
A Heath free kick 20 yards from goal was well defended as the defender got his head on the ball to stop Jamie Weston’s strike hitting the target. The resulting corner saw Tom Graves get free but could not get his header on target.
As the game entered the final 10 minutes it really looked to be one of them days after Callum Saunders shot was easily saved. CDG continue to hit Heath on the break and saw chances of their own firstly go wide and then well blocked by Nathan Cooper.
Deep into injury time Callum Saunders picked up the ball and ran at the back line, after cutting in he fired the ball across the 6 yard box and it struck the out stretched arm of the centre half, the referee had no doubt this time and pointed to the spot. Although Saunders had hit the post with his second penalty on Tuesday night he once again stepped up. He made no mistake this time and although the keeper guessed right he couldn’t get near the ball.
There was less than two minutes for the visitors to respond and Heath protected the lead well preventing any further chances.
Man Of The Match – James Shaw – The Heath shot stopper pulled off 2 vital stops at crucial times for Heath and deserved the clean sheet on the day.
Afterwards Manager Shaun Saunders said: “We certainly weren’t at our best today but we kept the pressure on and kept asking questions and finally got the goal to take the 3 points. The visitors kept to their plan and it really tested us today."
We will again lock horns with Crawley Down Gatwick on Tuesday night as we travel to The Haven Centre in the 2nd round of the SCFA RUR Cup for a 7:30pm kick off.
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