If Steve Painter was looking for a marker as to how far his side have come since last year’s disappointing 15th place finish, the last two matches will have given him great satisfaction. After fighting out a hard fought draw with Eastbourne Town last week, Heath travelled to third placed Newhaven hoping to avenge the 3-1 home defeat, without long term injured skipper Tom Howard Bold and the unavailable: Dean Wright and Ollie Moore. Michael Dale returned to the squad on the bench with Mason Doughty. Carlos Jorge and Charlie Leach were late drop outs meaning that Heath had a rather light bench. Scott Buchanan made his debut in midfield alongside Lee Carney and Andy Waddingham and Jamie Taylor was partnered by Devon Fender and George Cousins up front. At the back Brad Peters returned alongside Ryan Brackpool and they were given the brief of stopping the prolific Lee Robinson.
Heath started well and moved the ball quickly on a bumpy surface and were not afraid to get the ball forward to Taylor, Fender and Cousins as soon as possible. This resulted in most of the early play being in and around the home defensive third. Several corners free kicks and long throws caused some scrambles and near misses with the Bears not quite being able to apply the finishing touch. Half way through the half the home side began to push forward and had a couple of shots over the bar and Heath had to defend a series of corners.
Thorp had to be alert when a what should have been a routine save required some fast reactions as the ball took a crazy bounce off the difficult surface. By half time Heath were back on the attack and Martyn Flack’s header narrowly missed the post. So the break was reached with both defences un breached.
The home side started the second half with the urgency you would expect from a side that really needed the three points and when Brackpool was rather harshly penalised as Robinson backed into him, they had the first chance of the half with a free kick just outside the penalty area. However, a dangerous situation came to nothing as Thorp gathered the shot in front of his face with no fuss.
After the fast start from the hosts, Heath began to establish themselves and for the rest of the game looked the team more likely to break the deadlock. Then with time running out Doughty, on for Cousins, skipped down the wing and sent over an inch perfect cross for Taylor but the ex- professional marksman was for once off target as his header went wide of the goal.
To go to a side like Newhaven, who at the time of their victory at Heath earlier in the season were recognised as the best team Heath had encountered, and come away gutted that they had not taken all three points is testament to the progress Painter’s side have made this year. With the move into the new ground next season, there is real buzz about the club. Not that Painter is finished with this season yet and he will be driving his side on to get the maximum possible points from the last 5 matches, starting at Langney Wanderers next week.
Heath: Thorp, Flack, Robinson, Peters, Brackpool, Carney, Waddingham, Buchanan(Dale), Fender, Taylor, Cousins(Doughty).
Reporter: Sam Chapman