Walton Casuals 1 Burgess Hill 1 by Chris Francis
WE ARE less than a week into the Ryman season but already Hillians boss Gary Croydon is convinced Division 1 South is going to be hotly contested.
''I've been through all the teams and I just can't see who are going to be the weak links,'' he said after Tuesday's first point eased some of the pain of an opening day drubbing.
''The standard is amazingly high and the pace of tonight's game was fantastic.''
Hillians worked hard and certain players looked much more comfortable in changed roles from Saturday. Tom Edmonds was more like his old self in the centre of the defence, while Albion pro Paul Hinshelwood was able to show his pedigree after a poor league debut.
The debut of former Albion defender Stuart Tuck was also impressive and it was only a pity a rare error by the former Eastbourne Borough skipper, on loan from Priory Lane, led to a soft Casuals equaliser.
But a draw was the right result, with both sides working hard and nullifying much of that effort.
Big Andre Foster did pull off a smart save early on and was in serious action for the opening 10 minutes before things settled down.
It was some time before Hillians offered a serious threat but they went ahead on 40 minutes when Middlesex referee James Evamy, who gave them little all night, generously awarded a penalty when Chris Woodward gave Owen Hill the merest of pushes. Visiting skipper Shaun Grice took responsibility and rammed the spot kick down the middle to break the deadlock.
It was vital Hillians maintain the tempo in a zippy match but there were times in the second half when they struggled to do that.
Neil Watts worked his socks off and former Portsmouth youngster Joe Bye showed plenty of promise in his full debut.
It was in the 58th minute that Tuck superbly broke up an attack but his ball up the line was unusually casual and when it was returned through the middle, Hillians failed to deal with it before Greg Ball's shot squirmed under Foster's body and crept over the line.
In the last 15 minutes Hinselwood cleared off the line from Ball, and Scott Harris spanked a 30-yarder against Foster's lefthand post.
But at the other end Hillians sub Kevin Joyce was twice foiled in rapid succession by home keeper Danny Andrews.
Both sides picked up two cautions in the second half, with Owen Hill and Luke Gedling particularly unlucky. Hill did not hold on to the ball that long after conceding a free kick, while Gedling was blameless as he broke from the wall after a free kick had been played. Mr Evamy somehow failed to spot that fact.
But all in all, it was a productive evening for Hillians and Tuck looks as if he could be the kind of dominant defender they have been lacking for some time.
Hillians: Foster; Hinshelwood, Fogden, Edmonds, Tuck; Watts, Hill, Grice, Bye; Budge, Jarvis. Subs: Gedling (Bye, 73), Joyce (Budge, 79), Matten (Watts, 86).
Middy Starman: It could go to the whole team but Neil Watts gets it for his work rate even if the final product is not always forthcoming.