Horsham men’s hockey firsts shot up to second in the league with a narrow victory over struggling Maidstone.
Hosts Horsham were far from their best, only winning it with a goal right at the death, but showed battling qualities that impressed their captain.
Duncan Howarth said: “It certainly wasn’t our finest hour, but sometimes you’ve got to grind it out and win ugly.
“We did that and we move on. We’ll be raising our standards in training and coming back stronger each week.”
Despite being the owners of the worst defensive record in the league, the new year had begun well for Maidstone – a clean sheet and a 1-0 victory against Woking last week.
It was obvious from the first few minutes of the game that the visitors were a much more organised side.
Despite enjoying the majority of the possession in the opening 15 minutes, Maidstone were unable to test the Horsham defence with any meaningful attempts on goal.
It was Horsham who opened the scoring when Matthew Hough despatched a drag flick from a penalty corner, and despite pressing they couldn’t find a second before half-time.
The second half was a scrappy affair, with both sides having chances, but neither able to convert.
As the clock ticked down, it was the away team who looked the more likely to score, and with just over ten minutes to go they did just that to level at 1-1.
Having battled hard away at Marlow the previous week, Horsham were determined to not make their efforts meaningless.
With little over two minutes of the game to play, an inspired John Burroughs picked up the ball just over the half way line and drove into the opposition D. There he found John Kimberley, who slid the ball to an unmarked Jack Dean who finished a superb move at the back post to break Maidstone hearts.
Howarth added: “With Barnes losing, we moved up to second place in the league and the second promotion place.
“There are still nine games to go though and we have a number of tough teams to play. Nevertheless, we’ve put ourselves in a great position and we’re eager to push on.”