Bears and Lions share the points
Nyetimber Lane Pagham has not been a happy hunting ground for Heath in recent years and with both sides fighting to stay in touch with the leaders a tough contest was expected.
Heath were without Kieron Thorp, Marlon Maxwell, Shaun Findlay and Martyn Flack from the team that beat Horsham YMCA the previous week but welcomed back Scott Weller, Charlie Leach, Conor Evento and skipper Tom Howard Bold.
The Bears were fast out of the traps and pushed their hosts back with last week’s match winner George Cousins constantly getting behind the Pagham backline. This resulted in several corners but despite the pressure Heath could not get the final touch to open the scoring. With the ever dangerous Howard Neighbour and Danny Simmonds up front, Pagham always pose a threat and Connor Evento did well to push away a dipping shot from Jamie Horncastle and then blocked a close range header before grabbing the rebound as Simmonds challenged with a high boot which earned him a booking and may have contributed to what looked like a hamstring injury that forced him off shortly after.
The half continued with Heath having a lot of play around the home penalty area but unable to turn it into goals with several balls into the area just failing to reach a blue shirt and shots from Howard Bold, George Cousins and Devon Fender narrowly off target.
The second half followed a similar pattern but this time it was Pagham who had the Lion’s share of possession and Heath who threatened on the break. Andy Waddingham and Ryan Brackpool had to be at their best to repel the Pagham attacks and Evento dealt with several crosses confidently. He also made a wonder save from point blank but the whistle had already gone for a foul against Neighbour.
With the tension mounting and not being helped by some decisions that both sides seemed to be baffled by, the game became rather scrappy and disjointed. Lee Carney was felled by a challenge that the referee felt did not even warrant a free kick, telling Carney that he had dived as the Heath midfielder stood with blood coming from a mouth wound. To add to the frustration he was then ordered off the pitch to get cleaned up and not allowed back for several minutes as Heath fought to overcome the one man disadvantage.
Once back to eleven men Heath pushed forward more with Ollie Moore narrowly failing to get on the end of a Richard Wetton cross and Dean Wright having a volley, at the end of a flowing move, blocked at the last minute. The game ended with Pagham again on the attack having had 3 corners and a free kick but neither side could find the target and a ‘game of two halves’ ended with both sets of players and management accepting a fair result.
Before the match Heath would have probably been happy with a point. At half time they would have definitely had their eyes on three, but by the end of the match were satisfied with a share of the spoils against a very strong team on their home patch.
Heath now travel to Eastbourne to play the rearranged game against a United team who, under a new regime are showing signs of rejuvenation and will pose a stiff test for the high flying Bears.
Heath: Evento, Wetton, Robinson, Waddingham, Brackpool, Howard Bold, Carney(Weller), Moore, Wright, Cousins, Fender. Subs: Leach, Jones.
Report by Sam Chapman