Saunders disappointed after Heath draw

Jahmahl King marks his man closely. Worthing United v Haywards Heath Town. Picture by Grahame Lehkyi
Jahmahl King marks his man closely. Worthing United v Haywards Heath Town. Picture by Grahame Lehkyi
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Haywards Heath Town missed out on the chance to move further clear at the top of the SCFL Premier Division with a frustrating draw at Worthing United on Saturday afternoon.

Under very boggy conditions at the Memorial ground, this was never going to be a beautiful game, but one for digging in and grinding out a result.

Alex Laing takes on two defenders. Worthing United v Haywards Heath Town. Picture by Grahame Lehkyi

Alex Laing takes on two defenders. Worthing United v Haywards Heath Town. Picture by Grahame Lehkyi

After the game, Heath manager Shaun Saunders said: "I'm really disappointed today which was the ideal opportunity to extend our lead at the top of the table. We have not taken our chances and silly errors need to be cut out. It was a difficult surface for both teams - but I won't use that as an excuse.

"We will look to bounce straight back at Littlehampton on Tuesday evening, but will be expecting the team to raise our performance to that I know we are capable of."

Saunders made two changes from the team that faced Brighton on Wednesday evening with Kane Louismaking his first appearance since September in the number ten role along with the returning Alex Laing who was cup-tied for the mid-week fixture.

After an even start as both sides got used to the conditions, Heath really started to turn the screw for the final 25 minutes of the half.

The Blues enjoyed plenty of possession in the final third of the pitch with Max Miller a constant threat down the right wing. Karly Akehurst had two good shots from distance, but it was Alex Laing who went the closest to breaking the deadlock when his fiercely struck shot was brilliantly tipped onto the inside of the left post by keeper Matt Evans with the ball agonizingly rolling along the goal line.

For all Heath's dominance, Worthing's defence held firm and they too had their moments, looking a real threat on the counter. The visitors almost went into the interval with a lead but Trevor McCreadie saw his shot well blocked from close range in the final piece of play before the referee's whistle was blown to end the half.

Shaun Saunders made a double substitution at half-time with Laing and Miller replaced by Jamie Weston and debutant Jack Langford. Heath's new signing made an instant impact when he was found on the right wing at the start of the half, he burst through the defence with blistering pace, into the box and squared for Karly Akehurst to slam the ball home with just 29 second gone.

Heath should have scored a second goal just four minutes later when Joel Daly's cross found George Hayward unmarked on the edge of the six yard box, but his first time shot went wide of the far post with McCreadie and Weston unable to get a boot on it for a tap-in.

That miss proved costly as Worthing leveled the score in the 55th minute as Lehkyj failed to hold a high ball among a crowd of players which left James Wotherspoon with an easy finish.

Trevor McCreadie was then needlessly bundled over inside the box with his back to goal to win a penalty for Heath in the 76th minute. The Blues' top-scorer stepped up but saw his penalty saved by United keeper Matt Evans to keep the scores level

It was then Worthing who had a golden opportunity to win it in the 81st minute as they hit the post and spurned the rebound as Jahmahl King made a decisive block in front of goal.

There was six minutes of time added on, but Heath failed to get a shot on goal and had to make do with a share of the points in what was a fair result. It was a great game for the neutrals, but bitterly disappointing for the Heath contingent.