VCD Athletic 2, Burgess Hill Town 2: Late penalty denies Hillians third straight victory

Chairman Kevin Newell (centre) shares a joke with Hill fans at VCD Athletic.
Chairman Kevin Newell (centre) shares a joke with Hill fans at VCD Athletic.

Mark Nwokeji came off the bench to deny Burgess Hill Town a third straight win by cooly slotting home an 88th minute penalty to earn VCD Athletic a share of the spoils.

The Vickers, who are bottom of the Ryman Premier and without a league win, drew first blood when Donovan Simmonds curled a shot into the top corner in the eighth minute.

Hill responded through Darren Budd on the stroke of half-time, and Joe Keehan’s 53rd minute penalty looked to have secured all three points for the visitors before Nwokeji’s late spot-kick

Athletic were the better team for the majority of the first-half, and Simmonds’ powerful header in the fifth minute that was cleared off the line showed he was certainly up for it on the night.

Three minutes later and Simmonds had another bite at the cherry, and on this occasion he hit an excellent curling shot beyond Josh James into the top corner.

The goal should have been a wake-up call to the Hillians, yet they still struggled to get into the game.

In the 19th minute, Davidson Tejaiye flicked the ball forward to the lively Nigel Neita, who got the better of Toby Pointing and put a dangerous ball across the six-yard box towards Kojo Awotwi who looked set to make it 2-0.

Somehow the VCD man failed to convert and it was a big let-off for Burgess Hill.

The visitors improved as the half progressed without getting anywhere near their usual performance levels, and in the 27th minute had substantial claims for a penalty as Callum Saunders was clattered just inside the box.

The referee waved away the appeals, but as the interval approached, the Hillians looked the team likelier to score next.

The equaliser eventually came during the solitary minute of injury time as captain Budd netted a belated first goal of the season, when he bent a low shot from range into the bottom corner of Callum Thomas’ goal.

Eight minutes after the break and Budd was at the heart of things again when he sent a delightful ball over the top for Saunders to run onto.

Ashley Probets expertly tackled the Hillians wide-man, yet the defender was not so accomplished with his follow-up attempt as he scythed down Chris Smith inside the area, leaving the referee with no choice other than to award a spot-kick.

Penalty specialist Joe Keehan stepped up and rifled in his fifth goal of the season to give Burgess Hill the lead.

Substitute Lee Harding had a golden opportunity to wrap the game up for the Hillians when he burst down the left-hand side, and when his initial effort was blocked, his second was far more venomous, however, Thomas produced a great reaction save to keep his team in the game.

Hill looked to be heading back to West Sussex with three points in tow before disaster struck in the 88th minute when Lheureux Meuga was bundled over by Andy Pearson in the six-yard box.

Nwokeji struck home the resulting penalty to earn Athletic their sixth point of the season.

Although the late leveller frustratingly ended the Hillians winning run, a return of seven points from their last three games has propelled them up to ninth in the Ryman Premier.

MOM: Sam Fisk – Didn’t get a mention in the match report, but went about his business quietly and didn’t let anything get past him at left-back.

VCD: Thomas, Bakare, Probets, Avery, Bruce, Joseph, Graham (Nwokeji 75), Tejaiye, Neita, Simmonds (Meuga 80 (Tchonang 90)), Awotwi.

UNUSED SUBS: Brickwood, Budd.

HILLIANS: James, Pointing, Fisk, Budd (L.Harding 59), Pearson, Miles, Rowland (Pearse 65), Keehan, P.Harding, Smith, Saunders (Johnson 86).

UNUSED SUBS: Gargan, Doherty.

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