On a blustery day at Hanbury, Haywards Heath Town moved into third spot after completing a league double over Bexhill United.
The pitch at Hanbury was once again in great shape but it would be how the two teams dealt with the windy conditions that would be a telling factor.
Manager Shaun Saunders once again made several changes from the starting line up at Newhaven on Tuesday night. Missing this week for Heath were Danny Turner (away), Mike Gardner (working), Tom Graves (injured), Nathan Cooper (injured). Andy Wilkinson was handed a starting début and 16 year old Alfie Rogers was on the bench. The line was Simon Lehkyj in goal, a back line of Scott Marshall, Andy Wilkinson, Josh Bryant and Bailie Rogers. Providing width was Callum Saunders and Jamie Weston with Ryan Warwick in the middle with Skipper Carl Dunk. Heath attacking line up was Rob O’Toole and Max Miller. On the Heath bench was Matt Geard, Freddie Barker, Jordan Harris and Alfie Rogers.
Heath kicked with the win at their backs in the first half and pretty much set up camp in the Bexhill half.
Chances for Heath came thick and fast and as early as the 2nd minute they made their intentions known, a driving run from Jamie Weston who laid the ball off to Callum Saunders but his strike was well saved by the Bexhill keeper.
Just a minute later Carl Dunk was testing the young Bexhill keeper after Callum Saunders squared the ball but his drive was again saved well.
With Heath keeping the pressure on in the Bexhill half free kicks and corners were a plenty. On seven minutes Carl Dunk’s free kick was met by Rob O’Toole but again the Bexhill keeper was equal to it and held on to the ball.
As the pressure grew the opening goal was never too far away and on 19 minutes the deadlock was broken. Callum Saunders cut on from wide and found Ryan Warwick, his strike from the edge of the box hit a group of players and it was Jamie Weston who was first to react as he found the bottom corner to give Heath the lead and take his goal tally to seven for the season so far.
Bexhill did have phases in the game where they looked to counter attack Heath but with the back line holding firm it limited the visitors to efforts from distance that didn’t trouble Simon Lehkyj in the Heath goal.
On 28 minutes Rob O’Toole headed just wide from a Jamie Weston corner and then 2 minutes later Max Miller found Callum Saunders via Rob O’Toole and the winger beat the Bexhill Keeper but struck the base of the post with his shot from which Bexhill were able to clear.
On 32 minutes Heath were left asking questions as to if the missed chances would cost them the game as Bexhill drew level. On a rare breach of the Heath back line Simon Lehkyj could not get enough on the ball as it found its way into the back of the Heath net.
The setback didn’t deter Heath who continued to create chances, On 34 minutes Callum Saunders who is shining more and more every week cut in well and a clever dummy by Rob O’Toole let the ball run to Jamie Weston but again the Bexhill keeper was equal to it and got down well to save.
As the half began to come to a close both Callum Saunders and Carl Dunk saw strikes fly over the bar. The final chance of the half fell to the visitors but the strike could not find the target and Simon Lehkyj was pleased to see the ball drift wide.
Heath playing into the wind in the second half got the ball down at every opportunity and looked to play, good work in the wide areas kept Heath well advanced in the Bexhill half.
Rob O’Toole was close to connecting with a Scott Marshall cross on 50 minutes but was just at too much of a stretch to make a proper connection.
Bexhill were now using the wind to help get the ball forward but Josh Bryant and débutante Andy Wilkinson was preventing the visitors from getting anywhere near the Heath goal and shots from distance sailed over the bar.
On 57 minutes Heath restored their lead, in a flowing build up it looked as if Max Miller was hauled down in the box but the referee waved play on and Callum Saunders picked up the loose ball before crossing deep Jamie Weston picked up before finding Max Miller on the edge of the 6 yard box and he finished well with his left foot before the keeper could react.
The game then went into a 15 minute spell of stop start football with lots of free kicks and several bookings of which Andy Wilkinson picked up one for Heath.
On 72 minutes Freddie Barker replaced goal scorer Max Miller as the substitute continues to build fitness after his injury.
With 15 minutes of the game remaining Heath again stepped up a gear and so would follow the decisive goal, Scott Marshall again found himself in an advanced and a great deep cross found the arriving Callum Saunders who capped off a good game with a well taken volley that fizzed past the keeper.
Heath saw another chance come and go as the Bexhill keeper parried the ball and Rob O’Toole was not able to find the net on the follow up as Bexhill got bodies in the way.
Rob O’Toole wasn’t to be denied his goal though as on 80 minutes Ryan Warwick played a defence splitting pass that set Rob O’Toole free, as the keeper advanced Rob O’Toole skipped around him and tapped home into the open net.
On 84 minutes Freddie Barker was disappointed not to make it five as he connected well with Jamie Weston’s low cross across the 6 yard box but he directed the ball over the bar.
Heath made their final change of the afternoon moments later with 16 year old Alfie Rogers making his senior début in place of Rob O’Toole
As the clock now ran down the final chance of the game fell to skipper Carl Dunk after Callum Saunders cut the ball back but like in the first half he couldn’t keep his strike down.
Man Of The Match – Andy Wilkinson came in for a great début and a commanding performance at the back, breaking up play and putting Heath on the front foot.
Afterwards Manager Shaun Saunders said “I’m really pleased with another 3 points, Bexhill are a tough team to break down and their young keeper playing his first game since signing from Hastings Town was their stand out player making key saves especially in the first half. I’m pleased that we stuck to the task in hand, were patient and the result reflected our good team performance”
Next week Heath are on the road again as they travel to The Shooting Field to face Steyning Town 3pm kick off.
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