Horsham YMCA were made to regret a ‘catastrophic first five minutes’ and a plethora of squandered second half opportunities, as they were beaten 3-2 away at Pagham in Division 1 action on Saturday.
A shambolic YM start gifted the Lions a 2-0 lead after just five minutes, before the hosts added a third shortly after the half hour mark. Anthony Hibbert reduced the deficit three minutes before half time, and his goal proved vital in providing Peter Buckland’s side with the impetus to battle back after the break.
Pagham rarely managed to escape out of their own half during a second forty five dominated by the visitors. A barrage of gilt-edged chances were wasted either side of a Nick Sullivan second, before YM’s frustrating afternoon was compounded when manager Buckland was sent to the stands and midfielder Liam Hunter shown a second booking in added time.
The defeat is YM’s fourth in five games and marks their worst run of form so far this campaign, whilst they now sit eleven points behind latest league leaders Dorking Wanderers.
Manager, Buckland, commented: “It doesn’t matter who you’re playing, if you give a team a 3-0 head start, you are going to be up against it, and we had a catastrophic first five minutes. The third goal was a proper goal to concede if there is such a thing, but the first two were just a nightmare. It was like Sunday morning football.”
It took just three minutes for the hosts to open the scoring, as the YM defence stood still and watched Scott Murfin feed Rob Brown, who in turn beat his man and squared for Ryan Morey to tap home at the far post.
The Lions’ striker Murfin then turned goal scorer, as a mix up between YM full back Dan Evans and goalkeeper Mark Fox saw the latter’s clearance come under pressure, and after the ball ricocheted to the diminutive forward, he curled into an empty net from twenty-five yards.
Half chances were then squandered at either end as Pagham’s Andy Brown tamely fired at Fox, YM striker Sullivan was thwarted when freed one-on-one, and Lions midfielder Liam O’Connor blasted over from the edge of the area.
The visitors lost centre back Matt Crane to illness shortly after the half hour mark, and just sixty seconds later the home side extended their lead. The YM defence allowed wide man Brown far too much time and space and he delivered the perfect cross for O’Connor, who made up for his earlier missed opportunity by heading home unmarked from inside the area.
Buckland’s side were then given a much needed lifeline three minutes before the break. With several Pagham players left remonstrating with the referee over a supposed foul, YM played on and an Evans cross from the left was stabbed home by Hibbert at the near post.
The YM boss added: “At 3-1 down at half time I said to the players, bizarrely, that there is only one team who is going to win this game of football. I switched it to 4-4-2 and said just go for it and that’s what they did. I’m not exaggerating when I say we should have won 7-3.”
If anything, Buckland’s assessment is an understatement, as his side totally dominated a truly one-sided second period and could have netted double figures.
Hunter saw a turn and shot from eight yards well saved by Pagham ‘keeper James Binfield after some good work from Nick Sullivan down the right, before sixty seconds later Dan Sullivan tamely side footed at the stopper from close range.
A dinked Dave Brown cross evaded Nick Sullivan in the box, but fell for Hunter, who squared to Dan Sullivan, but again he failed to trouble the goalkeeper as he scooped the ball over the crossbar.
The Lions failed to find a foot hold in the game as YM continued to dictate proceedings, and it wasn’t long before the hosts’ advantage had been halved. With just under a quarter of the game to play, Brown was released down the left and after racing clear, provided a low cross that was missed by Hunter, but tapped home by Nick Sullivan at the far post to make it 3-2.
The onslaught continued as the game reached the closing stages, with Pagham players even resulting to kicking the ball out of the ground to run the clock down.
Hosts’ defender Ryan Davidson cleared a dangerous Josh Brown cross from under his own crossbar and Hunter then headed over when well placed, before YM boss Buckland was asked to leave the dugout following his remonstrations with the assistant referee, after the official’s decision not to award a penalty for a hand ball in the area.
Chances continued to come and go as Evans crossed for Nick Sullivan, but his meagre effort from six yards was saved, and Brown was then freed clean through in the box, but could only blaze over with just the ‘keeper to beat.
Striker Sullivan saw a flicked header cleared off the line in added time and Evans’ drilled follow up was expertly parried to safety by Binfield in the Pagham goal, before Hunter was shown red in the closing moments following an altercation with home forward Rob Brown.
Buckland concluded: “We missed chance after chance after chance. It was crazy. As I always say, when you’re 5-0 or 6-0 up they just go in, but not when you really need one.
“There was also a blatant handball [in the penalty area]. The linesmen and the referee are so busy on stuff that doesn’t matter, but stuff like that is crucial. I don’t understand it, it’s so infuriating.
“But those decisions aside, we should have so easily won the game. They did not get out of their half in the second half and I’m very frustrated. I can’t really have a go at the players. Half time was when I said what needed to be said, but the second half was the most I think we’ve dominated a game since I’ve been at the club.
“We should have come away from here with at the very worst a point. But a point compared to no points isn’t a great deal of difference. We needed to win and win we should have done.
“But we’re not even half way through the season yet. We’ve got another two games before we reach half way, so hopefully we can put six points on the board and then you watch us go in second half of the season.
“The players are buzzing in there now, believe it or not, even after a defeat. It’s disappointing, but we are going to have to take it out on Hassocks on Tuesday evening now.”