Haywards Heath Town 2, Littlehampton Town 1: Opening day delight for Saunders' men

Max Miller shows his delight after scoring. Picture by Grahame Lehkyj
Max Miller shows his delight after scoring. Picture by Grahame Lehkyj

Haywards Heath Town started the season in good form as they saw off a tough Littlehampton side at Hanbury.

Manager Shaun Saunders only made two changes from that which started on Tuesday night.

Jamie Weston opens the scoring. Picture by Grahame Lehkyj

Jamie Weston opens the scoring. Picture by Grahame Lehkyj

Simon Lehkyj was away so in came James Shaw in goal, a back line of Bailie Rogers, Luc Doherty, Nathan Cooper and Tom Graves who also skippered the side. Joel Daly, Jamie Weston, Karly Akehurst and George Hayward made up the midfield with Kane Louis and Max Millerleading the line. The bench consisted of , Charlie Pitcher, George Fenton, Omar Bukleb, Jamie Hillwood and the returning Alfie Rogers.

Heath started the game well as they looked to build on their FA Cup victory in mid-week. An early free kick from Jamie Weston was easily held; Heath then had a big appeal for a goal on 7 minutes as Nathan Coopers header was hacked off the line, the players appealed for a goal but it looked from behind the goal that the officials made the correct call and the game stayed at 0-0.

Chances started coming thick and fast for Heath as Max Miller found the keeper quickly out to prevent him from opening the scoring and then Kane Louis headed narrowly over after Nathan Cooper headed the ball back from a Jamie Weston corner.

Littlehampton were unable to get strike on goal as James Shaw watched several shots go high or wide, at the other end the Littlehampton keeper did well with efforts from Max Miller, Luc Doherty and Karly Akehurst.

The deadlock was finally broken on 20 minutes, Jamie Weston delivered a corner that Karly Akehurstmet and sent back towards the taker and Jamie Weston met the ball perfectly with a first time strike that beat the keeper on his near post.

The half started to then become littered with petty fouls, George Gaskin drew a good save out of James Shaw who held on well. Max Miller was unlucky not to double Heath’s lead as he crashed a header against the bar, Joel Daly saw a shot well blocked and Karly Akehurst didn’t trouble the keeper with a strike from distance.

As the half drew to a close Jamie Weston saw a fierce strike well saved and held by the keeper and Max Miller could only find the side netting when a cut back may have been a better option.

Karly Akehurst was the first player to enter the referees note book as he saw yellow for handling the ball into the net.

Heath caught their visitors cold as straight after the break the advantage was doubled, after winning a corner in the 46th minutes Joel Daly sent in a corner and Max Miller out jumped the reach of the keeper to head in.

Littlehampton started to grow into the game and James Shaw did well to hold one strike at goal and good defending blocked another effort.

Max Miller produced a lovely turn in the visitor’s box but dragged his strike wide. On 56 mminutes Littlehampton came the closest they had been to pulling a goal back, a quickly taken free kick almost caught James Shaw out but at full stretch he tipped the ball against the bar and managed to gather the loose ball before the Littlehampton players could stab the ball over the line.

Heath saw another couple of shots well blocked before Max Miller found himself racing through, a slightly heavey touch just gave the keeper enough time to close the ball and the chance was gone.

Charlie Pitcher then replaced Max Miller through the centre on 65 minutes and then 4 minutes late Alfie Roger made his return replacing Karly Akehurst.

With just under 20 minutes remaining a late tackle on Kane Louis brought about a lot of pushing and shoving, two Littlehampton players received yellow cards for their involvement along with Kane Louis.

A good strike from the visitors fortunately deflected wide on 77 minutes as they desperately looked for a way back into the game. With 8 minutes remaining that life line arrived for the visitors as Bailie Rogerswas adjudged to have made a foul in the Heath area and Ben Gray stepped up and smashed the ball into the top corner giving James Shaw no chance.

It certainly set up a nervous last 10 minutes for the Heath crowd, Littlehampton now through what they could at getting a point out of the game, they saw a strike go over the top, James Shaw save well from distance and both a header and strike drift harmlessly wide.

George Fenton replaced Joel Daly on the right to help Heath see out the game and secure 3 points in their opening league game.

Heath Man Of The Match – Max Miller – Constant work rate and threat throughout the match, deserved his goal and on another day could ave added to that tally.

Afterwards Manager Shaun Saunders said: “Really pleased to open the season with a win, Littlehampton always possess that threat going forwards and I think we managed it well. We need to go and focus on our first away game of the season on Tuesday where I expect AFC Uckfield to be just as much of a test to us. ”