Haywards Heath Town 2, Steyning Town 0: Heath secure promotion to Premier Division

Max Miller flicks the ball on. Picture by Grahame Lehkyj
Max Miller flicks the ball on. Picture by Grahame Lehkyj

Two goals in the final 11 minutes book Haywards Heath Town’s place in the SCFL Premier Division next season.

Manager Shaun Saunders made a couple of changes from Tuesday’s win against Langney. Simon Lehkyj continued in Goal, a back line of Bailie Rogers, Nathan Cooper, Tom Graves and Mike Gardner in for Josh Bryant who dropped to the bench. Carl Dunk made way for Scott Marshall who also captained the side and alongside him was Ryan Warwick in the middle. Completing the midfield was Jamie Weston and Callum Saunders. Up front was Rob O’Toole and alongside him Max Miller. The bench consisted of Matt Geard, Carl Dunk and Josh Bryant, Danny Turner and Alfie Rogers were away and Freddie Barker still recovering from injury picked up 2 weeks ago.

Heath knew before the game that a point would seal promotion but like every game this season they would have to work hard against determined opposition.

From the beginning the visitors worked hard and pressed Heath, with play going back and forth between the sides, it was the visitors with the best opportunity to open the scoring after just 5 minutes. Heath Keeper Simon Lehkyj made a poor clearance from a back pass that fell to the Steyning striker on the edge of the box, his early strike was well blocked on the line by Nathan Cooper who then cleared the danger.

The game settled down with most play in the middle with neither side able to find that cutting edge to give either keeper many problems, a highlight for some and heart attack for others was Simon Lehkyj nut-megging the striker in the Heath area to create some space before calmly playing the ball out.

On 16 minutes Callum Saunders picked up a booking but from this point Heath started to look more threatening on the visitor’s goal.

Callum Saunders tries a spectacular shot. Picture by Grahame Lehkyj

Callum Saunders tries a spectacular shot. Picture by Grahame Lehkyj

Two minute later Mike Gardner worked the ball out well to the left where Jamie Weston put in a great cross the Steyning keeper Ben Rose could only get a small touch on but Callum Saunders couldn’t steer his strike on target.

Heath started to find pockets to play into and on 26 minutes Max Miller did well on the right and his cross in was met by Jamie Weston but his header went narrowly over the bar.

Scott Marshall was next to go close as he shifted the ball on the edge of the box but his strike shot 2 yards wide of the post.

Rob O’Toole was next to go close but his strike from 25 yards was well gathered by the keeper.

Tom Graves blocks this attack. Picture by Grahame Lehkyj

Tom Graves blocks this attack. Picture by Grahame Lehkyj

Steyning continued to try and force Heath into mistakes, turn the ball over and hit on the break but the back line of Mike Gardner, Nathan Cooper, Tom Graves and Bailie Rogers gave very little away and prevented any strikes on target on Simon Lehkyj’s goal.

Heath then had a penalty appeal waved away as Callum Saunders went over in the box, Ryan Warwick was inches away on 35 minutes as he watched his strike go past the top left hand corner.

With just over 5 minutes of the half remaining full back Bailie Rogers nearly opened his goal account as his cross almost caught out the keeper as he needed to re-adjust his feet and turn the ball over the bar.

The final chance of the half fell to the other full back Mike Gardner, Scott Marshall did well in and around the box and his low ball in was steered over the bar from 8 yards out.

Max Miller puts the ball in the net. Picture by Grahame Lehkyj

Max Miller puts the ball in the net. Picture by Grahame Lehkyj

Half time came with the sides all square, Heath had had good possession but chances had been limited by Steyning Town’s high work rate and lack of final ball.

Heath started the second half well and looked to keep pressing the visitors but as Callum Saunders saw his cross deflected onto the bar you could have forgiven the thoughts that today might not be Heath’s day.

That thought seemed even more prevalent when a corner in saw Nathan Cooper scuff his shot which Tom Graves did well to keep the ball alive and turn the ball across the 6 yard box but Max Miller could not find a way past keeper and defender as the visitors once again cleared the danger.

Just after the hour Heath had another penalty shout waved away by the referee as the ball hit the hands of the defender.

Heath made their first change on 72 minutes with Carl Dunk replacing Mike Gardner, Scott Marshall slotted into full back with Carl Dunk taking his usual central midfield role.

Frustration started to show as Scott Marshall picked up a yellow card for asking a question!

With 79 minutes played Heath’s patience and perseverance finally paid off against the resolute Steyning side, Ballie Rogers worked well on the left hand side before cutting in and finding Rob O’Toole in a pocket of space, his strike across goal was not well connected but found Max Miller arriving on the 6 yard box and he poked home the loose ball.

Steyning now had to throw men forwards to search for a way back into the game and called Simon Lehkyj into a good save down to his right, this though left spaces for Heath to exploit as they started to play their own counter attacking football.

Max Miller made way for the experienced Matt Geard as Heath looked to finish the game with all three points.

With the full time whistle fast approaching Heath finally sealed the game in somewhat fortunate circumstances, Matt Geard spotted the run of Callum Saunders who on the bye line dug out a cross that flicked off the defenders shin and looped up and over the Steyning keeper and into the back of the net.

Little time was left for any more action as the full time whistle went and Heath making it 24 league wins in a row and securing promotion into the top flight of SCFL football league for the first time since 1991/92.

Man Of The Match – Bailie Rogers – The young left back was solid in the back line often getting forward to join the attack and almost opened his goal scoring in the first half.

Afterwards manager Shaun Saunders said, “I was really pleased how we defended today, Steyning set their stall out and were very well organised, I said to the lads at half time to be patient and not to rush things and I’m over the moon that we secured the win and have secured a promotion place today.”

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