This column has repeatedly suggested the tough nature of Ryman Premier League football. And in truth our Mid Sussex club Burgess Hill Town have spent a good season and a half just in the division’s apprenticeship stage.
After last year’s fortunate survival, when Farnborough went down instead of the Hillians, Ian Chapman, John Rattle, Kevin Newell and their back room staff have worked tirelessly to shape a brand new team.
After a couple of early season false dawns evidence now suggests that Burgess Hill are part of the Ryman Premier establishment.
Ian Chapman masterminded two recent mega important home victories (Grays and Billericay) seeing the club out of the relegation zone. As brought to you earlier in the week we all suffered a nightmare at Sudbury where 100 miles of intense driving put us on the back foot.
However, Chapman has a way of bouncing back and after a positive Thursday training session his team worked their collective socks off at the Wheatsheaf Stadium to secure that all important first away win of the season.
Many thanks to Steve for driving on Saturday up the M23 around the M25, along the Thames and into Staines. A journey of about 75 minutes in total. The stadium is home to Chelsea Ladies (last season) so the pitch is in very good condition, really great bar facilities and a substantial grand stand.
A real cracker of a home facility which I am sure that Staines are rightly proud of. Due to very low data roaming indicator on the old Samsung I watched virtually the entire game from the club house window using their free wifi.
From that high vantage point I witnessed the best game of the season where both teams were happy to break forward at will. The action ebbed and flowed both keepers were kept very busy all afternoon.
Staines like to attack down both wings and they put in some very dangerous crosses right on the penalty spot. However Will and Cheick defended these very well getting in headers when appropriate and leaving when appropriate.
Staines did take the lead from a corner but the Hillains stormed back into the match. Young Guy Bolton had a brilliant game on the left and it was his pass who set up the skill full Jack Brivio to fire home low from 20 yards. 1-1 at the break was about right.
Hill came out all guns blazing in the second half and it was one of their youth products Lee Harding who stole the show. He challenged out right, won the ball fairly, cut inside another defender and from 25 yards unleashed a screaming left foot rising drive into the roof of the net. The 20 or so Hillian’s massive went mad having seen the strike of the season.
He will rightly get all headlines for that winning moment but do not lose sight of a monumental shift put in by the back four. Under increasing late pressure they held on with skill, concentration and hard work (I am sure Tucky was suitably impressed).
Staines manager Johnson Hippolyte said in his programme notes ‘its fair to say that they (Burgess Hill Town) are one of the clubs whose management I don’t particularly know personally’. Well it’s probably fair to say that he does now. And that is the key message to all Ryman Premier League managers out there. The Hillains are now very much part of your world and if you take us lightly you could be in for a surprise.
The club go again on Boxing Day with an intriguing derby against Worthing. A huge crowd is expected at the GES but remember its a midday kick-off.
It turned into a brilliant day for Mid Sussex when sleeping giants Haywards Heath Town scored four goals on the road at Arundel to keep their title hopes ticking over. Huge congratulations to Shaun, his back room staff, players and Blues connections.