Horsham YMCA manager Peter Buckland conceded that any slim chance of promotion has disappeared, after his side slipped to their seventh Premier Division defeat of the season on Saturday.
YM failed to score for just the fifth time this campaign, as a depleted squad submitted a lacklustre display against their ninth-placed opponents - Eastbourne United.
United were by far the better side in the first half and deservedly entered the break a goal to the good thanks to striker Jamie Bunn’s close range opener just after the half hour mark.
The visitors were much improved during the second period, but despite their dominant display, Eastbourne front man Liam Baitup’s effort ten minutes after the restart was enough to secure his side all three points.
YM boss Buckland said: “I think the result probably reflects where we are in the league if I’m being honest. Fourth or fifth - languishing somewhere like that.
“If you’ve got any ambitions of finishing higher than that, then you’ve certainly got to come down here and go home with three points. Any hopes of promotion went today.”
In addition to the late losses of Matt Crane and Martin Smith, YM were already without the unavailable Ash Dugdale, Dan Sullivan and Anthony Hibbert for their long trip down to the coast.
The home side went ahead on 31 minutes as Baitup spread the ball wide to Bailo Camara and the midfielder’s superb, low cross into the danger area was only cleared as far as Bunn who leathered home from eight yards.
Eastbourne left-back Dave Smart rifled a ferocious strike a yard over the crossbar five minutes later, before the visitors almost levelled with their first attempt at goal right on the stroke of half time.
Luke Donaldson broke and feed Brown, who beat his marker and laid in Phil Johnson, but his thumping strike came cannoning back off the crossbar. Donaldson’s claims for a penalty were then immediately waved away by referee Josh Godfrey, after the midfielder was brought down in the box.
YM started the second period in a similar fashion to how they completed the first, and could have equalised within six minutes. Brown cut the ball back for Nick Sullivan, who sliced a low shot inches wide of the far post.
They were quickly made to rue their missed opportunity, as four minutes later the home side doubled their lead when Mark Fox failed to hold onto a high cross and Baitup was on hand to slam home.
Buckland concluded: “I need to put my thinking head on in the next few weeks and start thinking now about next season. It’s a question of finishing as high up the league as we can now, and it’s time to start having a little bit of a chop and change and having a look at some players.”
Horsham YMCA: Fox, Carden, Gathern, Burgess, Evans, Gedling, Wright, Brown, Donaldson, Johnson, N.Sullivan (Schaaf 64).
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