A late goal from Andy Pearson secured three points and three goals at home to play-off hopefuls Dulwich Hamlet.
The Hillians ran out 3-2 winners in a closely contested, entertaining match witnessed by 507 spectators at the Green Elephant’s Stadium.
The starting line-up saw three changes from the side that were knocked out of the FA Cup by Horsham YMCA last Saturday, with Toby Pointing, Joe Keehan and Callum Saunders replacing Darren Budd, George Branford and Chris Smith.
Leading up to this fixture, the visitors had been in fine form, unbeaten in five games; with four consecutive wins. They sat just inside the play-off position in 5th with seventeen points from nine games. Before kick-off, Lee Harding was presented with a bottle of champagne for netting the Goal of the Month against Farnborough three weeks ago.
Hill got us underway and it took 22 minutes for the game to conjure up its first opportunity, with Pat Harding working himself into space on the right before playing the ball across to Dan Pearse, who just couldn’t stretch enough and lost his footing. A few moments later, Dulwich had their first half-chance, with ex-Southend United forward Damian Scannell testing Hillians’ goalkeeper Josh James with a low shot that was calmly dealt with.
Burgess Hill got their well-deserved breakthrough on the half-hour mark, Dulwich ‘keeper Phil Wilson punched away an outswinging cross only as far as Lee Harding who, following a goalmouth scramble, picked out Pat Harding to finish calmly into the roof of the net and give Hill the lead.
It didn’t take long for the away side to respond though, when Scannell was fouled outside the area in the 36th minute. Ashley Carew stepped up and curled a wonderful free-kick that was tipped onto the post and cleared, however, the referee showed no hesitation in pointing to the centre circle and awarded Dulwich an equaliser.
Not wanting to be outdone, Hill set out to find an even earlier response. Their persistence paid off after just three minutes, with Dan Pearse finding himself in space and rifling home a low shot into the bottom corner: A definite, early goal of the month contender from him.
Just as it looked like Hill would take a resounding lead into the half-time interval, they were pegged back again by a defiant away side in added time. Skipper Danny Waldren fired in another equaliser for the South London side after Burgess Hill failed to clear their lines.
After the break, the Hillians bought on a pair of fresh legs in the shape of Dan Perry, who replaced Callum Saunders. The second half took a while to get going, with the first chance coming from Danny Waldren, whose 35-yard free-kick bounced just wide of James’ goal.
Dulwich continued to ask questions of the Burgess Hill defence when Ethan Pinnock teed up Rhys Murrell-Williamson, but he could only drag his cross-body shot the wrong side of the post.
But it wasn’t to be for Dulwich, and the hosts caught them on the break in the 85th minute, with Andy Pearson grabbing the winner. His cross was whipped in and the on-rushing Scott Kirkwood confused the goalkeeper, and the ball somehow crept into the far corner without an extra touch; a gift for Hill but a very welcome one nonetheless.
The win was very much needed for Hill. After a disappointing run of results, this was a perfect way to bounce back: a convincing win against highly-placed opposition.
MOTM: Joe Keehan - a real presence in midfield.
BURGESS HILL: James, Pointing, Fisk, Pearse, Pearson, Miles, Kirkwood, Keehan, P.Harding, Saunders (Perry 67), L.Harding
UNUSED SUBS: Smith, Budd, Bolton, Wiltshire.
DULWICH HAMLET: Wilson, Hibbert (Penny 90), Pinnock, Waldren, Drage, Nelson, Murrell-Williamson, Carew, Scannell, McDonald (Sankofa 80), James
UNUSED SUBS: Fernandes, Jayesimi, Mascoll
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