Haywards Heath won the marquee fixture of the SCFL season so far as last term’s table-toppers defeated the league’s big boys Three Bridges by a single goal on a very wet and blustery night at Jubilee Field.
Last season Heath only took 5 points from a possible 18 against the three other top sides, so an away win against a team tipped for promotion is a positive sign.
Manager Shaun Saunders gave debuts to new signings Joe Dryer and Jahmahl King, while Josh Heyburn made his first league start for Heath in goal. Nathan Cooper was once again deployed in the centre of midfield alongside the returning Karly Akehurst. It was a line-up physically equipped to deal with Three Bridges’ muscle power.
The first half was very even, with Heath having the better of the early play while Bridges came on strong as the half progressed. There were no chances of note to report.
The second half was a much livelier affair on and off the field. Trevor McCreadie – who was a Three Bridges player at the start of the season – predictably broke the deadlock for the Blues in the 68th minute when he battled with the defender in the six yard box to head home Max Miller’s cross from out wide on the right, mid-way inside the Bridges’ half.
There was drama on the touchline as the home side’s manager/chairman Paul Faili was then sent to the stands a few minutes later as frustrations with the match officials boiled over.
A farcical moment then occurred as all the match balls went missing. The referee had to halt the action for over five minutes on realisation that the game was being played with an unofficial ball.
The final 20 minutes saw Three Bridges have a number of chances at the visitors’ goal, but Josh Heyburn was in fine form, including a fingertip save to keep out a ball destined for the top corner.
A total of 9 minutes of time added on were required, but Heath held out to record a crucial victory which takes them up to second place in the table with a game in hand.
Man Of The Match –Josh Heyburn: Everyone played superbly well for Heath in a real team performance, but it was the stopper’s crucial saves late in the game which ensured the points were going home with the Blues.
Speaking after the game, manager Shaun Saunders said: “I’m delighted with tonight’s result because obviously it was a really big game, and I said at half-time that one goal would nick it and we had to be brave enough to take our chances if they came our way.
“When you give Trevor (McCreadie) chances in and around the six yard box he’s going to hurt teams and it was a really good delivery from Max (Miller) too.
“We defended really well tonight and at times it was backs-to-the-wall stuff as it’s not an easy place to come and get a win. We set out to take something home with us and we ended up taking it all.”