Horsham YMCA returned to winning ways on Saturday, as they eased to a comfortable 5-1 Premier Division victory at home to Eastbourne United AFC.
Despite playing over half the game with ten men following Dean Carden’s 37th-minute red card, a hard-working YM proved too strong for United and stopped the rot following four straight defeats.
Skipper Ashley Dugdale’s early header was cancelled out by visitors’ striker Liam Painter midway through the first half, before Carden was dismissed for raising a hand in the face of United midfielder Toby Clifford.
Dean Wright restored YM’s lead after capitalising on a defensive error four minutes before the break, and the home side then dominated after the restart with further goals from Dave Brown, debutant Luke Donaldson and Sam Schaaf.
Manager Peter Buckland said: “Going down to ten men often galvanizes a team. It doesn’t make a phenomenal amount of difference to your shape if you all work five per cent harder. That makes up for the man you’re missing.
“I feel that we have had some really bad luck over the last few games. We missed the late penalty up at Croydon and then conceded two 98th-minute goals against Loxwood and Pagham. That can, if you aren’t careful, slide you into a little bit of a rut.
“With the sending off at 1-1, I thought that our bad luck was continuing, but the players really did us proud all over the pitch.
“The four defeats are a monkey off our back. If we had chiselled out a 2-2 draw with ten men we might have been excused for thinking we had done well, but we weren’t going to accept that. We didn’t want a point. We have to push on now.
“We switched to 4-4-1 and I promised the players at half-time that if we worked hard we would win the game 4-1 or 5-1. It was 5-1 in the end and deservedly so. It wasn’t in doubt.”
YM winger Dave Brown had claims for a penalty waved away, before the hosts broke the deadlock just after the quarter hour mark. A long kick from goalkeeper Simon Lockwood released Wright and after some good work from the forward to beat his man, he played a neat one-two with Schaaf before crossing for Dugdale who headed into the far corner unmarked from eight yards.
The lead lasted just seven minutes however, as Jamie Bunn’s unchallenged shot from the edge of the area deflected into the path of Painter and the United striker coolly fired home with a slack YM defence stood awaiting an offside flag that never arrived.
Following a challenge and subsequent altercation, Carden raised his hand in the face of Eastbourne’s Clifford, and despite the youngster theatrically throwing himself to the ground, referee Nick Blogg showed the YM full-back a straight red after a brief consultation with his assistant.
YM restored their lead after a marauding Brown run that started inside his own half, eventually ended with the winger freeing Wright in the channel, and despite a poor first touch, the forward’s persistent pressure earned him a second bite of the cherry as he robbed the defender inside the box and slammed the ball into the top corner.
Addressing Carden’s sending off, Buckland said: “He didn’t punch him. He pushed him with his left arm and then kind of brought his right arm through. It wouldn’t have taken a whisker off your chin, but their player made the most if it.
“The referee wasn’t going to give it, but the linesman this side said that he swung his hand and he’s going to miss three games now.”
Eastbourne could have easily been mistaken for the side with the man disadvantage after the break, as YM totally dominated the second 45 minutes.
Brown doubled YM’s lead 11 minutes after the restart when his nonchalantly curled free-kick found the far corner from 20 yards to mark his ninth goal of the season.
Debutant Luke Donaldson, recently signed from Peacehaven & Telscombe, took just four minutes to find the score sheet after coming on.
After cutting inside, the midfielder’s initial strike was well parried by James Broadbent, but he failed to halt the headed follow up which looped into the net to make it 4-1.
Schaaf eventually netted a deserved goal in added time, as quick thinking ‘keeper Lockwood’s long throw found substitute Paul White, who laid Dan Evans on the overlap and his pull back was poked home by Schaaf from close range.
Buckland added: “We go down to Arundel on Tuesday now, fully stacked. Nick Sullivan is back, but we’re still nursing Matt Crane a little bit because he’s got quite a bad groin strain.
“Then it’s Hailsham away and Hassocks down here, so I’m looking for maximum points out of these games. It’s an old cliché, I know, but I really am looking for nine points to put us right back in the mix.”
Horsham YMCA: Lockwood, Carden, Gathern (D.Sullivan 46), Pollard, Evans, Gedling, Dugdale, Hibbert, D.Brown (White 82), Wright (Donaldson 67), Schaaf. Unused subs: Crane, Gannon.