BEARS EDGED OUT BY TIGERS AGAIN
Saltdean United have become Heath’s bogey side over the last couple of seasons with most games being settled in the south coast’s favour by the odd goal. It was unfortunately the same story on Saturday with the visitors prevailing by the only goal.
Heath had to contend with the last minute drop outs of Marlon Maxwell and Scott Weller as Charlie Leach who was serving the last game of his suspension, Devon Fender still struggling with injury and Tim Rivers and Tim Cook who were unavailable. Martyn Flack filled in at right back with Andy Waddingham moving back alongside Ryan Brackpool in the heart of defence. Dean Wright returned to lead the forward line.
Heath started well with Wright always available to link up play enabling the Bears to produce a series of dangerous attacking moves with George Cousins, Wright and Ollie Moore all going close before Nathan Stroomberg in the Saltdean goal pulled of an excellent save to tip Cousin’s curling shot over the bar. Tom Howard Bold and Richard Wetton also fired narrowly over as Heath had the best of the first half hour. From a Richard Wetton throw, Flack, despite being sandwiched between two defenders, flicked the ball into the path of Ryan Brackpool who drilled it into the far corner. Heath’s celebrations were cut short as the Referee indicated he had spotted an infringement, despite no appeal from the defenders. Heath players and management were given several different versions of what the infringement was from the referee which lead to understandable frustration.
Having survived the strong start by Heath, Saltdean began to push the hosts back as Heath tried to force the game and began to give possession away too often. Heath’s back four was now called into more action and had to be alert to some dangerous set pieces from the visitors. However, the stalemate remained at half time during which it was decided that the injured Richard Wetton could not continue and was replaced by Dane Riecker
Saltdean had the first two attacks of the second period but after that it was Heath who took control and for the next 30 minutes were more or less camped in their opponent’s half. Stroomberg made two more excellent stops from Cousins and Wright and a defender somehow managed to block Wrights close range effort after he had got on the end of Riecker’s cross. Flack flashed a cross through the six-yard box when he might have gone for goal and Moore just failed to make contact with another Riecker cross.
As often happens when the dominant team fails to score, Saltdean intercepted a Heath pass, broke away down Heath’s left flank and worked the ball across to Alfie Rogers who jinked inside Flack and buried his shot in the bottom corner. This took the wind out of Heath and for the next ten minutes Saltdean took control and Kieron Thorp in the Heath goal had to make a couple of smart saves to keep the deficit as only one.
Then as the game entered the last ten minutes Heath got their game together again and pushed Saltdean back resulting in several corners and free kicks. From one of these set pieces the ball was cleared only far as Lee Carney who lofted the ball back into the box where Stroomberg and Moore rose together, the Saltdean keeper punching the ball off the Heath man’s head only as far as Cousins who found the bottom corner for what Heath and the crowd thought was a deserved equaliser. However, the referee thought otherwise and gave a fouls against Moore despite the fact that it had been Stroomberg who had gone into Moore rather than the other way round and even the Saltdean bench stated ‘it was never a foul.’ Heath tried to raise themselves for one last push but the whistle went with the resilient and well organised Tigers holding out for another narrow victory over the Bears.
Manager Steve Painter said that at this level the game is about very small margins and had they won they would have gone sixth, only behind fifth placed Pagham on goal difference. As it is, the bears now face a local derby with resurgent Loxwood, in their quest for a top 6 finish in what is turning out to be one of the most competitive premier leagues for some time.
Heath: Thorp, Flack, Robinson, Waddingham, Brackpool, Howard Bold, Carney, Moore, Wright, Cousins. Wetton(Riecker 45)
Subs: Fuller, Jones.
Author: Sam Chapman