Joe Keehan and Pat Harding goals secured an opening day win for Burgess Hill Town in their first ever match in the Ryman League Premier Divison.
Luke Ingram responded for fellow league newboys Needham Market, but the Hillians defended resolutely to hold out and safeguard the three points.
New signings Josh Jones and Tommy Fraser were handed their full debuts, and it was the latter that carved out the game’s first opening as he looked to pick Toby Pointing out at the far post, but the hosts just about managed to clear their lines.
See video of Joe Keehan and Ian Chapman after the game here
The wide players Jones and Lee Harding were Hill’s most threatening players during the first-half, and shortly after the hour mark, pressure from Jones and left-back Sam Fisk caused Needham Market to concede a penalty through a hand-ball.
Centre-back for the day Joe Keehan stepped up and converted, sending Shaun Phillips the wrong way in the process.
Five minutes before the interval the visitors had another penalty shout, when Lee Harding appeared to have been upended in the area, however, this time the referee waved away the appeals.
The Hillians went into the break with a slender one-goal advantage, and doubled their lead three minutes into the second period through the industrious Pat Harding.
Namesake Lee Harding caused confusion among the Market defence and when he found himself on the touchline with only a defender to beat, the youngster unselfishly squared to Pat who coolly slotted home.
The Hillians second seemed to ignite Market into life, and in the 54th minute Luke Ingram beat the offside trap, with his shot across Josh James nestling into the bottom corner.
The goal from the home side set up a nervy finale, but Darren Budd had two golden opportunities to put the game to bed.
Firstly, the Hill skipper nodded wide from close-range after a searching ball from Pointing, and five minutes later he fired straight at Phillips after another defensive mix-up had gifted him a chance.
Needham Market’s Ingram and Jordan Patrick looked dangerous on the flanks throughout, but they were stifled every time they threatened by solid defensive work from Fisk and Pointing.
Hill boss Ian Chapman freshened things up as legs began to tire, and brought Chris Smith and Dan Pearse on for Jones and Budd, with Smith nearly grabbing a debut goal with a shot on the turn which trickled wide.
Despite a late Market onslaught, Burgess Hill were able to stand firm and seal a historic win.
The defensive aspect of the display will have pleased Chapman, who had to utilise midfielder Keehan at centre-back. The move worked a treat though as Keehan and Andy Pearson produced a solid defensive understanding, and when needed put their bodies on the line with some fantastic last-ditch blocks and tackles.
MOM: Tommy Fraser – Dictated the tempo of the game from the middle of the park throughout an assured debut.
HILLIANS: James, Pointing, Fisk, Budd (Pearse 79), Pearson, Keehan, Kirkwood, Fraser, P.Harding, Jones (Smith 65), L.Harding.
UNUSED SUBS: Saunders, Johnson, Branford.
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