Haywards Heath Town 4, Crawley Down Gatwick 1: Heath move 10 points clear

Ryan Warwick is the meat in a Crawley Down Gatwick sandwich. Picture by Grahame Lehkyj
Ryan Warwick is the meat in a Crawley Down Gatwick sandwich. Picture by Grahame Lehkyj

Two good footballing sides met at Hanbury and produced an entertaining game that Heath took all three points.

With Manager Shaun Saunders away helping promote no more youth on youth violence at Millwall football club the squad was left in the hands of Roy Staughton, Jason Deacon and Bryan O’Toole. Simon Lehkyj once again started in Goal, a back line of Bailie Rogers, Josh Bryant, Nathan Cooper and Scott Marshall who came in for Tom Graves who was away. Carl Dunk returned as skipper and was partnered by Ryan Warwick in the middle. Completing the midfield was Jamie Weston and Callum Saunders. Up front was Rob O’Toole and alongside him Freddie Barker. The bench consisted of fan favourite Danny Turner, livewire Max Miller, experienced Matt Geard, the returning Mike Gardner and young Alfie Rogers.

With plenty at stake for both sides the game was all set, a Heath win would see them go a potentially 10 points clear dependant of Storrington’s result at Mile Oak, a win for the visitors would see the gap reduced at the top to 4 point with the sides still to play at the Haven later in the season. The pitch was all set for football to be played on it and both sides certainly benefited from a good surface.

It was a lively start to the game with the early opportunity falling to the visitors but the strike from 20 yards after just 4 minutes was comfortably dealt with by Simon Lehkyj.

On 7 minutes the deadlock was broken as Heath drew first blood and it was some great inter play, Scott Marshall on the right found Callum Saunders who’s first time ball inside found Jamie Weston who in turn fired Heath into the lead.

The game settled down with both side enjoying periods of play, Heath’s next chance fell on 14 minutes as Jamie Weston did well to get on the end of a Ballie Rogers cross but he could not direct his header on target.

Heath were forced into an early change on 21 minutes as Freddie Barker pulled up with a muscle pull and Max Miller came on to replace him.

The visitors didn’t let the early goal rock them much as they went in search of an equaliser and a strike from distance on 22 minutes went just wide of Simon Lehkyj’s post.

At the other end Heath saw two penalty appeals turned down as Rob O’Toole was only given a free kick on the edge of the box despite the foul looking like it was two foot inside and then Callum Saunders drive into the box saw him upended with the referee waving play on.

On 26 minutes Rob O’Toole found some space on the right before beating one defender and driving a low cross into the box that was taken off Max Millers toes just before he tapped in. From the resulting Jamie Weston corner Nathan Cooper rose above his marker and sent the header into the top corner despite the palm of the keeper.

rawley Down Gatwick made an instant response to going two goals down, a quick run into the Heath area saw Josh Bryant mistime his tackle and bring the advancing forward down and a penalty rightly given. The Crawley Down taker stepped up and sent the ball to the left of Simon Lehkyj who got down brilliantly to preserve Heath’s two goal advantage with a fantastic save.

With 10 minutes of the half remaining the visitors had a penalty appeal turned down as Bailie Rogers made a tackle in the Heath box that the Crawley Down players felt was a foul but the referee pointed to a corner instead.

As half time approached the final chance of the half fell to substitute Max Miller, Ryan Warwick found the Heath striker but his shot was saved well by the Crawley Down Gatwick number one.

The second half saw the visitors have good possession but they struggled to break down the back line of Heath who were playing more counter attack football as they sat on their two goal advantage.

On 52 minutes some great football saw Heath in touching distance of the three points, Bailie Rogers won the ball deep in the oppositions half and picked out Jamie Weston, his cross field ball found Callum Saunders who in turn put in a pin point cross that Rob O’Toole out jumped his marker to head home powerfully from 7 yards and take his tally to 30 goals for the season from 31 games.

Just before the hour Max Miller found good space but his strike flew over the top of the bar.

At the other end good play from the visitors drew out a fine stop from Simon Lehkyj in the Heath goal.

Heath then made their second change of the afternoon with Danny Turner replacing Bailie Rogers.

Crawley Down Gatwick found a glimmer of hope on the 74th minute as they pulled a gaol back through Sam Cane, A corner in was not held by Simon Lehkyj under pressure from players around him and the loose ball was smashed into the back of the net by Cane.

Heath made their final change of the afternoon with Matt Geard replacing Ryan Warwick in the heart of the midfield.

As the game entered the final 10 minutes the visitors started throwing men forwards which left gaps for Heath to exploit. Max Miller raced clear but as the keeper advanced he could not keep his lob down and it went over the top. Minutes later he was set free again but could not find the pass inside to Callum Saunders and the covering defender did well to block out any danger.

Crawley Down Gatwick then had another penalty appeal turned down as Simon Lehkyj seemed to catch the advancing player on the leg but the referee pointed for just a goal kick.

The visitors final chance of the afternoon fell to the striker in space 10 yards out but he couldn’t keep his shot down as it went firmly over the bar.

As full time approached some good play down the right saw Max Miller pull the ball back to Matt Geard and he laid the ball off to Rob O’Toole but his strike lacked venom and the keeper gathered easily.

As the clock entered injury time Heath finally ended the game, Scott Marshall released Callum Saunders he nutmegged the defender as he cut inside before firing into the bottom corner and ending the game.

A good game played in the right spirit by two sides that wanted to play football, neither side picked up any bookings in a competitive match.

Man Of The Match – Nathan Cooper– Another dominant display at the back and a headed goal took his tally to two in two games and five for the season.

Afterwards Head Coach Roy Staughton said: “We played really well and controlled the game up until Simon’s penalty save, we then dropped off and let them have too much possession after that.

“We did however always look dangerous on the break. Our third goal today was great play between Jamie, Callum and Rob and really settled us down. Overall we got the result in the end without being outstanding.”

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