Cousins’ Rocket Settles Tense Derby
Nearly 200 people dragged themselves away from the post-Christmas sales to watch an engrossing derby between two sides enjoying profitable seasons. YM were looking to maintain their push for the title and promotion whilst Heath’s target of a top 6 finish is still very much within reach. The game, as often with these derbies, was not full of flowing football but there was plenty of cut and thrust to keep the crowd entertained.
Heath had to contend with the absences of the impressive and consistent Andy Waddingham, Charlie Leach (serving the last of a three match suspension), skipper Tom Howard-Bold, Scott Weller and the injured Richard Wetton. On the plus side, manager Steve Painter welcomed back top scorer Devon Fender after a seven match absence and Shaun Findlay who slotted into midfield as if he had never been away. Marlon Maxwell returned to partner Ryan Brackpool in the heart of the defence and Martyn Flack continued to deputise at full back. There were also injury worries over Fender, Dean Wright and Ollie Moore with Physio Matt Harrison very busy before the match.
Heath started well with the pace of Fender and trickery of Cousins linking well with Wright to get behind the home back four without getting the important last touch. The game then settled into a war of attrition with first one side then the other threatening to get the upper hand without actually making the breakthrough. YM came close to breaking the deadlock when a free kick was headed goalwards for Kieron Thorp to push the ball against the bar and Heath cleared the rebound. At the other end Moore, Wright, Cousins all had shots over the bar and Martyn Flack up from the back had a header over and a shot blocked. With the experienced Lee Carney directing things, Heath reached half time very much in the game.
Heath again begun on the front foot in the second half but gradually found themselves pushed back by the hosts. Pete Buckland brought on ex Horsham favourite Tony Nwachukwu for Dean Bown and Jack Frankland for present Horsham player Jack Hartley in a bid to step up the bid for an important three points. This reflected how well Ryan Brackpool and Maxwell had dealt with Bown who has also appeared for Horsham as well as the fine performance captain Jamie Robinson had put in against Hartley. As we entered the last ten minutes it appeared to be a fight to last out for a point for Heath. But with Carney demanding his players got forward more the balance began to shift and Fender was inches wide when set up by Wright on the edge of the box. Aaron Jeal in the home goal scrambled a shot from Carney around the post and Ryan Brackpool hit the bar with a header from one of a series of corners.
Then just as the game entered stoppage time another Heath corner was only half cleared and the second cross found its way to Cousins out on the far corner of the penalty area. Without hesitation he lashed in a shot that was so ferocious that if it had not buried itself in the far corner of YM’s net, would have still been going now. Cousins was submerged beneath a pile of Heath players and the travelling supporters went wild.
YM were left with four minutes to save a point but despite throwing everything at Heath, could not break through and Heath took every opportunity to keep possession of the ball deep in their oppositions half. The final whistle went and Heath had completed a Christmas double over their two closest rivals, after their Boxing Day victory at Loxwood. Steve Painter had asked his team to put down a marker as to how far they had come since joining the county elite and they did not let him down. As for Cousin’s winner, even YM manager Pete Buckland said that it was difficult to argue with a goal like that.
Heath’s first game of 2019, on Saturday, is another 6 pointer as they journey to Pagham who are three places place and 2 points below them below them but with a couple of games in hand. It is expected that Waddingham, Leach, Howard-Bold, Weller and Wetton could be available for that game which will intensify competition for places. Painter is also aiming to bring in at least one new player for 2019 as the Bears go into the new year with everything to play for.
Heath: Thorp, Flack, Robinson, Maxwell, Brackpool, Carney, Moore, Findlay, Wright, Cousins, Fender. Unused Subs: D Riecker, Jones, Blake.
Reporter: Sam Chapman