Shaun Saunders was left with mixed emotions after Haywards Heath Town’s 2-2 draw at Bostik South East’s champions-elect Cray Wanderers on Saturday.
Karly Akehurst opened the scoring for Heath before Joe Taylor hit back almost instantly for the Wands.
Callum Saunders then put the Blues ahead before the hour but Taylor was again on hand to peg Saunders’ side back as the points were shared.
The result sees Heath stay in fifth, nine points clear of sixth-placed Hythe Town, as a play-off place beckons for the Hanbury Park-outfit.
Saunders was delighted with the ‘sheer grit and determination’ his team showed against the league’s runaway leaders but was left disappointed in the manner in which they were pegged back twice.
He said: “The lads know I was disappointed. Both goals that we conceded, we conceded within a minute of getting our noses in front.
“But it was a fantastic result for the club and it was a really big performance from everybody and they gave 110 per cent.
“I was disappointed with the timing of the goals, but we were really up for the challenge and we showed sheer grit and determination not to lose.”
The home side settled into the match and enjoyed early spells of pressure.
However, Saunders’ corner on 41 minutes was met by Melford Simpson but the ball crashed against the crossbar. Akehurst reacted the quickest to head the ball in and give Heath the lead.
Frustratingly for Heath the lead was only held for two minutes.
A free-kick was only partially cleared and the return ball in was volleyed past Josh Heyburn by Taylor.
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The hosts started the second-half with intent with two efforts in the first four minutes flying just over the bar.
But against the run of play Heath again took the lead on 58 minutes.
Laing’s pinpoint cross found Saunders who headed in his 26th goal of the season.
Just like the first-half the lead was short lived as just two minutes later as league-leaders Cray made it all square again.
An effort from the edge of the box was well saved by Heyburn but the firm hand saw the ball drop back down into the six-yard box and Taylor was in the right place to stab the ball in.
It was Heath who really could have snatched all three points as the match entered the 90th minutes with Trevor McCreadie.
With just keeper Nick Blue to beat his effort from the edge of the area went an inch the wrong side of the post.
Saunders added: “I said if they wanted the points they would have to work hard for it and we made them work hard for it.
“We had a good couple of chances and we could have nicked but all-in-all for me it was a great result.
“I’m not lying when I say that to a man we were fantastic. I can’t fault them.”
The Blues travel to VCD Athletic on Saturday.
Heath: Heyburn, Laing, Cooper, Spinks, Tutt, Saunders, Napper, Akehurst, McCreadie, Pogue (Rowe 90), Simpson. Unused: Nanni, Dalhouse, Folkes, Graves.