Horsham YMCA suffered back-to-back Premier Division defeats for only the second time this season on Saturday, as in-form visitors Pagham secured all three points at Gorings Mead.
The hosts were dealt two huge blows right at the end of an otherwise uneventful first half, as impressive Lions’ midfielder Lloyd Rowlatt fired home 90 seconds before the break and Liam Humphrey’s then netted three minutes into added time, as YM manager Peter Buckland was sent to the stands by referee Nick Blogg.
The home side prodded and probed during a livelier second period, but as they struggled to create the clear cut chances required to find a way back into the fixture, their fate was then sealed five minutes from time as Pagham substitute George Cody sublimely volleyed into the top corner to make it 3-0.
The Lions’ win stretched their unbeaten run to seven games, whilst failing to score for the second week running meant YM couldn’t capitalise on closest rivals Lancing and Newhaven also slipping up in the race for third spot.
Assistant manager Dean Potter commented: “It was disappointing, but I didn’t think it was a 3-0 score line. We made two big mistakes in our box for the two goals and the third one is just a great strike into the top corner.
“I’ve got no excuses. I think that Pagham deserved to win, but I don’t think they deserved to win by three goals. In the second half we played really well and thought we were probably the team on top. I thought that they were looking to play on the break.
“The manner of the defeat last week was very, very bad. It was a poor performance all round, but again in the second half we could have scored four or five goals and that’s the stupid thing about football.”
The visitors then broke the deadlock just before half-time as YM wide man Luke Donaldson was robbed of possession by Rowlatt and after spreading the ball out to the right, the midfielder continued his run and eventually turned and fired low into the net from ten yards after the YM defence failed to fully clear Lewis’ cross.
Matters were then made worse three minutes into added time at the end of the first period, when a softly awarded free kick was floated into the box by Lewis and Humphreys poked a deflected effort past the returning Simon Lockwood, back in the net for the first time since being substituted at half time away at Eastbourne Town at the start of December.
Following the goal, YM boss Buckland was asked to leave the home dugout by referee Blogg, after berating the man in charge for his decision in the build up to the Lions doubling their advantage.
Potter added: “I think the second goal killed us. I don’t think that it was a free kick first of all and I was disappointed at that. Hibbs (Anthony Hibbert) is standing his ground and the kid is backing in and he’s fallen over. Going in at 1-0 down, you’re still in it, but 2-0 gives you much more of a challenge.
“Pete is a passionate guy and he was frustrated. I don’t like criticising referees, but I thought that he had a bad game today, I really did. And I thought that was for both sides. I think he’s booked five players, four of which were ours, and I don’t think there was really a dirty tackle in the game. That’s another disappointing thing, but it’s no excuse, we’ve lost the game.”
YM had plenty of second-half chances and the woodwork was struck twice in a minute midway through the half, once at either end of the field.
YM striker Schaaf was unfortunate not to net a goal of the season contender as his wonderful 40-yard volley came cannoning back of the crossbar, before Lions’ winger Lewis watched a drilled effort tipped onto the upright by Lockwood.
Despite YM’s growing pressure, it was Pagham who left the final mark on the fixture, as Rowlatt was allowed far too much time and space outside the area and after his misplaced pass was only half cleared, substitute Cody slammed a stinging volley into the top corner.
Potter concluded: “The turning point was possibly Schaafy (Sam Schaaf) hitting the bar, because suddenly at 2-1, when we were on top, it could have been different. And we had a couple more decent chances, as did they.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to say that we deserved anything out of the game, because I don’t think we did, but I think the score line is harsh.
“These last few games we’ve had to put players in positions where they don’t play. We’re lacking bodies at the moment because of suspensions. Luke Gedling also failed a fitness test before the game.
“They are a good set of lads and they will bounce back. We’ve got seven games left and hopefully we can still try and get that third place by winning as many of those seven games as we can.
“We’ll go again. We’ll regroup, have a good training session on Thursday and then look forward to Hailsham at home next Saturday. We’ve got to bounce back and I believe that we will do.”
Horsham YMCA: Lockwood, Carden, Burgess (Crane 72), Gathern, Evans, D.Sullivan, Hibbert, Wright, Donaldson, Schaaf, Johnson. Unused: Gedling.