Heath back on top after emphatic victory

Spencer Slaughter jumps in to win the ball. Haywards Heath Town v Hassocks. Picture by Grahame Lehkyj
Spencer Slaughter jumps in to win the ball. Haywards Heath Town v Hassocks. Picture by Grahame Lehkyj

A second half show saw Haywards Heath Town jump from fifth to first as the title race continued to swing with Heath putting five past lowly Hassocks on Easter Monday.

The only grass fixture in the SCFL Premier Division meant Heath completed Easter with six points and firmly in the hunt for a promotion place.

Full credit to Roy Staughton who spent Easter Sunday preparing the pitch and despite the overnight rain the pitch drained well ensuring the fixture could be played as planned.

Heath’s starting line-up saw a return to the 11 for Scott Chamberlain, Melford Simpson and Kane Louis with Alex Laing, George Hayward and Jamie Cradock rotated to the bench.

The Heath line-up saw Josh Heyburn continue in goal, Chamberlain at right back with Joel Daly moving to the left and a centre half pairing of Tom Graves and Josh Spinks again. In midfield Max Miller and Jamie Weston again provided the width with Naim Rouane and Karly Akehurst holding the middle. Kane Louis supported Melford up front.

There wasn’t much to write about in a first half that Heath dominated with possession, an early chance for Josh Spinks as he continued his run into the box getting onto Max Millers cross but the keeper did well to save with his feet.

Melford Simpson takes a knock to his ankle. Haywards Heath Town v Hassocks. Picture by Grahame Lehkyj

Melford Simpson takes a knock to his ankle. Haywards Heath Town v Hassocks. Picture by Grahame Lehkyj

Karly Akehurst saw an effort from distance easily gathered and the Melford Simpson headed over on 16 minutes. Hassocks although lively going forward often squandered possession too easily in the final third and their first effort of the game came in the 37 minute but the strike from distance cleared the bar.

A minute later Max Miller went close striking across the goal with his left but the ball went the wrong side of the post. It was Miller’s explosive pace that helped open the scoring; Joel Daly won the ball in the Heath box and found Jamie Weston his quick ball released Max Miller who advanced with the ball into the box before unselfishly squaring the ball to Melford Simpson to tap into an open net.

Heath created two more chances as the half drew to a close, Melford Simpson created some space on the edge of the box but his powerful effort was just wide of the keeper’s left hand post. The final kick of the game saw another chance as Kane Louis found himself free from a route one ball but he snatched at his shot and the keeper again gathered comfortably.

Heath made a half time change with Alex Laing replacing Joel Daly who had again had an impressive half, Laing moved to left midfield with Jamie Weston now taking up the left back role.

Karly Akehurst cuts out a Hassocks attack. Haywards Heath Town v Hassocks. Picture by Grahame Lehkyj

Karly Akehurst cuts out a Hassocks attack. Haywards Heath Town v Hassocks. Picture by Grahame Lehkyj

It was an immediate impact from Laing as he played a neat one two with Melford Simpson on the edge of the Hassocks box before burying the ball high past the diving keeper on 46 minutes.

Max Miller almost made it 3-0 just three minutes later sliding in and connecting with Alex Laing’s low cross but the keeper showed good reactions to make the stop. Hassocks continued to try and play on the break but their next effort of the game was wide of the Heath upright.

Laing continued to make a positive impact to the game and his willingness to test the visitors keeper produced another save at the near post, the resulting corner fell to Karly Akehurst but his effort had the power but lacked the direction.

Just before the hour mark George Hayward replaced Kane Louis who had picked up a knock, Hassocks had their best spell of the game around 65 minutes in when Josh Heyburn had to react quickly to keep out a point blank header, the recycled ball was then headed wide by Jordan Badger.

Heath continued to look like they were going to increase the score, Karly Akehurst saw a spectacular overhead attempt hit the side netting and then a minute later Melford Simpson should have doubled his goal tally for the day firing wide from close range with his left foot.

Simpson was not to be denied his second though after another surging run from Alex Laing he pulled the ball back and found Simpson who made no mistake with power and accuracy past the Hassocks keeper.

Hassocks were now starting to tire and Heath looked to take full advantage, Max Miller beat his full back marker and his fine strike needed an equally fine save at the near post. Karly Akehurst was next to strike at goal but although another good save only a goal kick was given.

With 80 minutes played a mistake in the visitors back line let in Alex Laing for a free run at goal but again the keeper came out on top pulling off another good save to frustrate Laing.

The fourth goal of the game did come though on 84 minutes when Laing released Miller on the right and the Heath wide man pulled the ball back to the waiting George Hayward who made no mistake from 10 yards out finishing well.

Heath wrapped up the game deep into stoppage time and another run from Alex Laing saw him ride a challenge before picking out Karly Akehurst who slotted into the corner for his second goal in two games.

Men of the Match – Both Max Miller and Alex Laing, Over the 90 minutes Max worked his socks off stretching the Hassocks back line and setting up two of the games goals and Alex had an exceptional 45 minutes changing the game when he came on not only scoring instantly but also setting up two of the other goals.

Manager Shaun Saunders said “ I was very pleased with the performance given after the week we’ve had. 120 minutes in a cup semi-final and a tough one at Loxwood on Saturday which was heavy going for both sides and another heavy one today, so to win all three, I’m over the moon with that and a clean sheet today is brilliant.”

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