Heath Stay Top With Win Against Saltdean
The old boys didn't come back to haunt the Blues.
Haywards Heath maintained their lead at the top of the SCFL Premier Division with a 3-0 win over Saltdean United at Hanbury Stadium on Tuesday evening. An impressive crowd of 165 turned out for the mid-week fixture in a contest which saw four of Heath’s 2015/16 Division One title winning team lining up for the Tigers.
There was somewhat of the unknown coming into this contest, with newly promoted Saltdean ‘doing a Heath’ having won the Division One title last season and now making good headway in the Premier Division with a squad full of known names from Sussex County Football.
It didn’t take long for the first goal to come, and it went to the home side as Karly Akehurst got a toe to the ball at the near post in the 8th minute from Scott Chamberlain’s in-swinging freekick out on the left.
Saltdean tried to impose themselves on the game by putting in some strong challenges, but after referee Robert King gave out a booking for a trip, he’d set himself a very low tolerance level by which to judge all subsequent challenges. The referee’s whistle dominated the first period, with the yellow card making multiple appearances.
Heath got their second goal from the penalty spot in the 24th minute when Saltdean captain Ash Jones had two pulls at Trevor McCreadie in the area. Heath’s leading scorer notched his 11th league goal of the season as he sent young Tigers’ keeper Jordan Hawkins the wrong way.
Joel Daly unleashed a vicious strike from the right on the half hour, but his effort was saved well by Hawkins.
In the 40th minute, a corner in from the right by Weston was headed back towards goal by a Saltdean defender, Akehurst connected with a header near the goal line, but it went the wrong side of the crossbar.
Half- Time: Haywards Heath Town 2-0 Saltdean United
The game was put to bed early in the second half, as with just 4 minutes on the clock, Alfie Rogers - under pressure from two men - dug out a cross from the right which flew past Hawkins in the Saltdean goal and into the far left corner of the net!
With the game settled, multiple substitutions followed, with all the intensity of the first half now a distant memory.
Jamie Weston waltzed his way down the left wing in the 52nd minute and put the ball right across the six yard box, but McCreadie failed to connect
Saltdean did finally force Josh Heyburn into making a save of note in the 69th minute as he brilliantly kept out the ball low to his right following a scramble in the area.
Karly Akehurst then headed over from a corner in the 72nd minute.
The closing minutes saw Blues’ substitute Bailie Rogers playing in attack. The usual left-back spurned a golden opportunity to score when Hawkins slipped over, but his effort went high over the bar. In stoppage time, Jamie Weston found Rogers on the edge of the six yard box, but his touch let him down, only managing to stab the ball wide with the outside of his boot.
Either side of Rogers’ two chances, Joel Daly had another chance down the right, but once again Hawkins kept the shot out with a good save.
Final-Score: Haywards Heath Town 3-0 Saltdean United
It was a fine win for Heath who’ve found it hard to beat teams around them in the league over the past 18 months. After losing 3-2 at home to Eastbourne Town a few weeks ago, this was a much welcome three points on a night where the SCFL fixtures finally went to form in what has been an unpredictable season so far.
Man Of The Match: Luc Doherty. Heath’s attacking right-back showed his class tonight, being effective at both ends of the field. He was the main recipient of some tasty challenges, but survived. That alone would have been enough to take home the bubbly!
After the match, Haywards Heath manager Shaun Saunders said:
Tonight I’m naturally delighted with the win, but even more so with the clean sheet that I strive for every game – especially when you come up against quality opposition.
Saltdean have some top players in their ranks, but we controlled the game all over the park, limiting them to just the one real chance in the game. We took our chances tonight when it mattered and we must now prepare to do it again on Saturday with another tough test in Loxwood.