Haywards Heath slipped to third after a home defeat against Bexhill 2nd XI on Saturday.
Bexhill got off to a dream start by removing Heath stand-in skipper Jonny Phelps in the first over, caught at gully from a Byron Smith delivery that jumped off a length.
Tim Cridland bowled well in partnership with Smith to make scoring difficult as both bowlers found swing against the left handed duo of Chris Blunt and Dan Woodfield. Woodfield (18) played nicely off the front foot before splicing a pull to mid-wicket to give Cridland the only wicket off his 9 over spell.
Heath number four Alex Dodsworth was met by the miserly spin of Bexhill captain Neil Blatchly and was never able to get his innings going, eventually falling lbw to the same bowler, who then dismissed Tim Upchurch a few overs later to leave Heath in real trouble at 50 for 4.
Blunt (15) fell lbw to Dahron Pitt who soon had a second successful appeal, this time against Matt O’Keeffe, which meant Heath were to be reliant on the lower middle order to post a score of any significance.
Fortunately for Heath Stephen Goulds did what he has done all season and played positively from the outset to put some pressure back on Bexhill.
Ben Matthew proved a perfect foil for Goulds and the pair brought up a 50 partnership that took the home side into the closing overs with a chance of posting a score that could be defended on what was a difficult wicket. Looking to hit out in the final overs,
Matthew (20) was caught and bowled by the returning Smith, and Goulds (36) was caught by Blatchly off the bowling of Guillaume Green who benefited from the late push for runs by picking up 3 for 6 in just 2.4 overs. Med Haynes (14) added a few valuable late runs but Heath were bowled out for 133 in the 44th over.
Heath felt in the game at tea and made a great start courtesy of Ben Matthew who produced a fantastic direct hit from point to run out Blatchly for one in the first over. Heath never let Bexhill get going and all bowlers were able to settle in to their spells as the Bexhill batters seemed content to just occupy the crease. They reached drinks one down with 50 on the board before Phelps had Will Edwards caught behind for 20.
Number four Tom Powell upped the tempo with a quick 15 before becoming Phelps second victim. Heath managed to regain control of the run rate and the pressure told on opener Thomas Naish (24) whose long stay was ended by Ben Matthew.
Bexhill were now 99 for 4 with 8 overs of the innings remaining and it was number 6 Ian May that took hold of the match for the visitors as he struck four boundaries off a single over to cut the required total in half.
Heath managed to create some panic in the final stages as Matthew took the wickets of Callum Phillimore and Tim Cridland, before Blunt had May (25) caught brilliantly by Haynes and then ran out Green, but Jamie Wicks completed the chase for Bexhill as they got home with two wickets and two overs to spare.