Horsham YMCA returned to Division 1 action in disappointing fashion on Saturday, as they surrendered a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 away at struggling East Preston.
Despite two uncharacteristic headed Nick Sullivan goals giving the visitors a comfortable cushion by the midway point in the first half, EP fought back to pinch all three points in injury-time..
Captain Shaun Charles halved the deficit 12 minutes before the break, after which the hosts completed an unlikely second half comeback.
Defender John Hampson headed home the equaliser with 25 minutes left to play, before Ryan Hallett netted an injury-time winner to inflict YM’s fourth defeat in six games, demoting them to eighth in the Division 1 table.
YM boss Peter Buckland said: “I am very frustrated. If you are 2-0 down and get back to 2-2 and then concede a stoppage time goal then it’s almost acceptable.
“But we were 2-0 up and then lost the game 3-2. Looking at the bigger picture, we just never got going today. I just can’t explain it.
“At 2-2, we had a couple of really unlucky efforts from Nick (Sullivan) and Hibbs (Anthony Hibbert), and on another day, if they were to have gone in, it would have been a different game.
“But you can’t keep talking about missed chances when we’ve conceded three goals again. And it isn’t a dreadful back line we’ve got. It’s just all about discipline and keeping our shape.
“But even at 2-2 with a couple of minutes to go, we kept bombing on, leaving gaps all over the pitch. I was screaming at the players from the touchline just to keep their shape. Fair play to East Preston though. They had a right go at us.”
YM lined up against two former Gorings Mead bosses in Sammy Donnelly and his assistant, Simon Funnell, who hadn’t seen their side win since early November and lost their last three games on the bounce.
It looked as if the home side’s recent poor run would continue when Dan Sullivan’s in-swinging corner picked out brother Nick, and the striker headed home his 16th goal of the season at the near post just before the quarter hour mark.
The visitors did then make it 2-0 when another Dan Sullivan set piece, this time a free kick, was whipped into the box and brother Nick again glanced home with his head.
Buckland was forced into introducing recently re-signed wide man Joel O’Hara earlier than planned, when lively youngster Taylor Smith picked up a knock and had to be replaced on the half hour mark.
Four minutes later the home side reduced the deficit. Not for the first time, Preston winger Maxime Agnoley skipped past YM full back Dan Evans as if he wasn’t there, and after his dangerous, low cross was only cleared to the edge of the area, skipper Charles’ scuffed first time effort crept inside the far post.
EP then drew level midway through the second period. With the YM defence still questioning referee Daniel Jeffery’s decision to award a corner that clearly touched an EP player last, the hosts took the kick short quickly, and David O’Callaghan’s in-swinging cross was headed home by an unmarked Hampson from 12 yards.
YM were made to rue a series of missed chances three minutes into added time when an EP breakaway saw Charles all too easily skip past three defenders, before the ball fell kindly for Hallett to fire into the far corner from the edge of the area.
Horsham YMCA: Lockwood, D.Sullivan, Carden, Crane, Evans, Dugdale, Gedling, T.Smith (O’Hara 29), Hibbert, J.Brown, N.Sullivan. Unused Subs: O’Carroll, Fox, Gathern.