Horsham YMCA made it two wins in three days in Division 1, as they beat Crawley Down Gatwick 1-0 at Gorings Mead on Bank Holiday Monday.
The win was less convincing than their 6-1 mauling of Arundel two days prior, but they were provided with a sterner test by an Anvils side set up to frustrate YM with all eleven men behind the ball.
Dave Brown’s first half strike was eventually enough to secure all three points, although the result was never really in doubt, with the visitors failing to register a single shot on target all game.
YM manager Peter Buckland commented: “It was actually very frustrating in the end. I said to the players beforehand that Crawley Down were going to come down here with the main objective of not losing. They were literally going to put ten men behind the ball and they did.
“They weren’t bothered about creating too many chances and thought they may hopefully nick something on the break. I can’t remember them having a shot on target and they seldom got out of their own half, so it was a new thing for us to deal with.
“We do get teams coming down here setting up defensively, but they are trying to win a game of football. Don’t get me wrong though, I don’t blame Crawley for playing that way, and where they are at this moment in time they probably need to do that.”
YM dominated from start to finish, but despite their superior possession they consistently failed to find the creative spark required to break the Anvils down in the final third.
Brown’s opener came just before the quarter hour mark and it was the hosts’ first real attempt on the Crawley goal. Some neat work from Liam Hunter and Nick Sullivan freed the YM winger and after skipping past two challenges his low shot found its way through goalkeeper Liam Lyndsay, who should have perhaps done better.
Brown could have doubled his and YM’s tally for the afternoon three minutes later after Luke Gedling’s cut back found him unmarked in the box, but his shot was this time blocked by Lyndsay.
Buckland’s side were sloppy at times and mistakes littered their play on a wet and nippy Gorings Mead outfield, but they were still creating chances. An unmarked Nick Sullivan headed straight at the ‘keeper from twelve yards after a clipped Ashley Dugdale cross had picked him out, before Brown stretched to poke an effort just wide of the post shortly before the break.
Buckland added: “When a team enters a game of football with the sole intention of not losing it, it does make it very difficult sometimes to try and break them down. We tried to go round them, through them, over the top of them, but the strength in their team was their back four, or back seven if you like.
“We just needed to move the ball forward more crisply with Crawley setting up like they did. It was the only way that we were going to stretch their back four. That or someone like Browny going past one or two players to open them up, which we weren’t able to do that often.”
YM emerged from the interval with a greater intensity about their play, and after a series of early corners, they went close to doubling their lead when Brown cut in from the right and saw a curled effort well parried by Lyndsay in the Crawley goal.
A rushed Dan Sullivan strike whistled wide of the far post shortly after, before Hunter released Nick Sullivan clear down the left, but he could only slice his shot wide of the far post with the outside of his boot.
The Anvils continued to find themselves camped inside their own half as the YM pressure continued, albeit without an end product. Hunter headed a Dan Evans cross wide of the target after the former had done well to keep the ball in down the left, after which Brown rattled the post from twenty-five yards with the ‘keeper beaten all ends up.
Matt Crane then watched a customary bullet header from a Dan Sullivan corner cleared off the goal line with twelve minutes to play, before substitute Leroy Hyett cut inside and struck a deflected shot wide of the woodwork.
With the visitors offering nothing at the opposing end to potentially punish YM for their missed opportunities, the score line never felt hazardous at 1-0, but the hosts could have made the three points even safer in the closing stages.
Brown skinned his marker down the left and squared to Hunter who shot wide from the edge of the area, before the midfielder turned provider for Hyett, who glanced a header wide of the far upright in added time.
Buckland concluded: “I think the score line should have been more, but points are what it’s all about. I think that Crawley will frustrate a lot of teams away from home, but you do fear for their points tally if they’re not going to try and score at the other end.
“We may have just been a bit tired after Saturday’s game. We put a lot of effort in away at Arundel, and it is only a two day break with an early kick off on a Bank Holiday Monday, so in a way I’m glad it wasn’t a big game at home.”