Phil Johnson came off the bench to hit a late winner at Nyetimber Lane and book Burgess Hill’s place in the next round of the Sussex Senior Cup.
Opponents Pagham, who sit fifth in the Southern Combination Premier, came into the game having notched 50-league goals in 15 games, and with Hill’s poor cup showings against lower-league teams so far this season they were taking nothing for granted and fielded a strong side.
The visitors applied all the early pressure on a windy night in West Sussex, and after a couple of half chances from corners, took the lead in the 12th minute through Chris Smith.
Darren Budd sent a wonderful ball over the top for Lee Harding to run on to, and the wide-man drove into the box before squaring the ball to Smith who tapped home to register his ninth goal of the campaign.
Despite dominating for long periods of the opening half, the Hillians soon found themselves level when Pagham winger Terrell Lewis cut in from the left-hand side and unleashed a venomous drive from 25 yards that flew over Josh James.
At that stage in the game it was certainly against the run of play, however, not many goalkeepers would have backed themselves to stop the strike.
Burgess Hill had opportunities to regain the lead before half-time and went close with efforts from Dan Pearse and Lee Harding, but the best chance fell to Budd who flashed the ball wide from ten yards following a header off the line after a corner.
Seven minutes after the restart, Hill thought they had finally got themselves in front again when Joe Keehan headed home Budd’s free-kick, yet it was ruled out for offside; much to the bemusement of both sets of players.
Elliot Levy and Johnson were brought on to inject some pace and energy to the Hillians attack, but it was Lee Harding’s direct running that continued to cause problems for Pagham.
Harding once again broke down the right-side, and after beating his marker had his powerful shot well saved by the James Binfield.
The resulting corner saw a real goal-mouth scramble as Will Miles headed back across the six-yard box and Sam Fisk’s header cleared off the line and eventually away to safety.
The Hillians lack of cutting edge nearly cost them and when Dan Simmonds low shot beat James, there was a huge sigh of relief when the ball bobbled onto the post and away.
The game looked to be on course for extra-time, until the 89th minute when Smith was found by Keehan’s headed clearance on the edge of the box, where his strike was parried into the path of Johnson, who had to slide ahead of his marker to poke the ball into an unguarded net.
It certainly wasn’t a classic, but as the only remaining cup competition that Burgess Hill are still in this season, the result was certainly of higher importance than the performance.
The Hillians now have an 11-day wait until their next game on the 21st November when they are back in league action against Billericay Town at the Green Elephants Stadium.
MOM: Chris Smith – Another goal in an all-action performance from the striker, where he looked dangerous every time he was on the ball.
HILLIANS: James, Keehan, Fisk, Budd (Johnson 78), Pearson, Miles, Kirkwood, Pearse, P.Harding (Levy 65), Smith, L.Harding.
UNUSED SUBS: Rowland, Doherty, Bolton