After exiting the Sussex Senior Cup last Tuesday, Burgess Hill Town’s focus was solely on winning the league.
To do this, Hill needed to keep up the good performances of late and straight from the off Burgess Hill were pressuring Walton Casuals and creating good attacking chances.
Only 2 minutes in, Pat Harding broke free in the centre of the field and crossed the ball into the box where after a little confusion, the ball landed perfectly at Lee Harding’s feet where surely he would slot the ball home.
Somehow this did not happen and to the confusion of the majority of the 443 strong crowd, the ball did not find the back of the net and in fact went over the bar. Just 6 minutes later however, Lee Harding made no mistakes and was able to head home from a Darren Budd free kick to put the Hillians ahead.
Ian Chapman was forced to make a substitution on 17 minutes after Spencer Slaughter was badly tackled and had to exit the field injured and Scott Kirkwood came on to replace him. The quick tempo of the match seemed to suit Hill’s playing style and they had chance after chance to double their lead. Rob O’Toole came close to scoring on 25 minutes after a great Kirkwood cross met O’Toole in the box but his header went just wide of the post. Walton Casuals had their first opportunity of the game on 29 minutes when Billy Dunn managed to find space and took a shot which was deflected off Will Miles for a corner.
The resulting corner was taken by Dunn but nothing came of it and was cleared up the field by Sam Fisk.
The score stayed 1-0 until the half time whistle despite Hill having many opportunities to make it more.
On 33 minutes Will Miles hit a great knock up field to Rob O’Toole who crossed the ball to Lee Harding in the box. Lee’s header challenged Walton’s keeper Tom Wellham and he had to flick the ball onto the cross bar to deny Lee his second of the match. The chances kept coming for Hill and they were awarded a free kick after Darren Budd was brought down. Dan Pearse took the free kick and hit a well positioned strike to the top right corner of the goal that was well saved by Tom Wellham. The score stayed 1-0 until the half time whistle despite Hill having many opportunities to make it more.
The second half started as the first had finished with high tempo play and large amounts of Burgess Hill possession. Darren Budd had the first shot on target of the half on 60 minutes but his effort was saved and a quick counter attack saw Billy Dunn create a chance to level the score but he was brought down and Walton Casuals were awarded a free kick. Jordan Cheadle took the free kick but it was saved by Josh James who punched the ball out past the post for a corner.
On 72 minutes Callum Saunders came on to replace Rob O’Toole and his presence on the field made an impact immediately. Saunders was taken down in the box during a promising looking attack just 5 minutes after coming on which gave the referee no choice but to award Burgess Hill Town a penalty.
Joe Keehan stepped up to take the penalty and made no mistake in finding the back of the net by smashing the ball past the keeper who went the wrong way.
Ian Chapman chose to bring on Graham Martin for Dan Pearse on 82 minutes and for the next 8 minutes play was pretty even. There were three added minutes to be played but Saunders managed to seal the game bang on 90 minutes when he found himself space to beat the Walton Casuals keeper and was able to calmly slot the ball into the open goal to secure the third goal of the afternoon and the vital 3 points for Hill’s title push.
Burgess Hill Town: Josh James, Spencer Slaughter (Scott Kirkwood 17), Sam Fisk, Darren Budd, Andy Pearson, Will Miles, Dan Pearse (Graham Martin 82), Joe Keehan, Pat Harding, Lee Harding, Rob O’Toole (Callum Saunders 72)
Unused Subs: Max Taylor, Tom Bold