Horsham YMCA were stunned in stoppage time for the second successive game on Saturday, as their unbeaten Premier Division start came to an end with a 4-3 defeat at Pagham.
Dean Carden’s seventh-minute penalty gave YM an early lead, but a quick-fire brace from Lions’ George Cody and a Dan Simmonds spot kick turned the fixture on its head to leave Peter Buckland’s side trailing 3-1 at the break.
The visitors were much improved following the restart and after Sam Schaaf reduced the deficit midway through the second period, substitute Paul White’s 92nd-minute leveller looked to have shared the spoils.
But after Dave Brown was sent off following a second yellow card, Simmonds headed home his second of the afternoon seven minutes into added time to make it 4-3 in a devastating blow.
The defeat marked a fourth straight loss for YM, who are now winless in five and 11 points behind league leaders Newhaven, albeit with two games in hand.
Buckland said: “I think that the players did well to get back into the game and I really, honestly thought that I was going home with a point until we conceded right at the death.
“My biggest grief is where the time came from. It was the 97th minute. I asked the referee on 90 minutes how long there was left and he said three minutes stoppage. That’s two games running now.
“I thought that we were the better team in the second half. The referee has admitted that he made a mistake with the penalty not being awarded for Schaafy (Sam Schaaf), but if you’re going to concede four goals, it’s always hard to win a game of football.
“Sometimes the footballing Gods are just against you. We had the penalty denied to make it 3-2 and going in at half-time like that, I think we’d have won the game of football. We were really unlucky not to get anything out of it.
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“It will be about reaction now, but we can’t keep getting bad luck. It isn’t the end of the world. We’ve only played eight league games and we’ve lost one. We’ve got to bounce back now and win three back to back and we’ll be right back in contention.”
The away side actually started very sharply. Skipper Ash Dugdale’s thumping 25-yard volley cannoned back off the crossbar, before Luke Gedling’s threaded through ball released Schaaf inside the penalty area and he was upended by Pagham defender Keiron Playre-Howard.
Referee Steve Hughes pointed to the spot and defender Carden coolly converted from 12 yards to put YM ahead.
The visitors’ lead lasted less than 60 seconds though, as the hosts responded when Terrell Lewis’ low cross from the right was deftly turned into the far corner by Cody at the near post.
The Lions midfielder then doubled his tally six minutes later to complete a swift turnaround. Lewis was again the creator, this time all too easily skipping past makeshift YM full-back Dan Sullivan and covering defender Dan Pollard, before crossing for Cody, who fired home unmarked in acres of space at the far post.
A flurry of Pagham pressure and a ball into Simmonds saw the striker control well before being brought down by centre back Alex Gathern in the box.
Referee Hughes pointed to the spot for the second time in the opening half an hour and Simmonds coolly sent Lockwood the wrong way from 12 yards.
Cody could have completed a first half hat-trick as a hard working, fast pressing Pagham won the ball back and a clipped Dan Swain cross found the midfielder at the far post, but his header was aimed straight at Lockwood.
YM then ended the first period the better of the two sides and spurned a number of chances. Strong penalty claims were waved away when a long Lockwood kick was flicked on by Anthony Hibbert and freed Schaaf, who managed to shoot just wide of the far post despite severe pressure from Lions defender Ryan Davidson in the box.
YM showed immediate intent in the early exchanges after the restart, as an equally exciting second half ensued.
Schaaf had a second penalty appeal turned down, whilst at the opposite end YM goalkeeper Lockwood kept his side in the game to smartly deny Pagham striker Joe Grommett when one on one.
Schaaf’s hard work was eventually rewarded with a goal midway through the second half when an intelligent Carden through ball found Wright and after jinking past his man in the box, he squared for Schaaf who fired home from close range to half the deficit.
As the game crept into added time, visitors’ substitute Paul White watched a stinging strike well saved by Binfield in the home goal. The Pagham ‘keeper could do nothing about a second effort from the YM midfielder two minutes later however, as after neatly controlling a low Hibbert cross, he lashed the ball into the far corner to make it 3-3.
Buckland’s side could have unbelievably nicked a winner when a White cross just evaded the head of Schaaf in the penalty area, before Brown was shown red for a second booking and Pagham immediately exploited his absence.
Lewis marauded into a large hole left by the dismissed winger, and after cruising past Sullivan, he crossed for Simmonds, whose initial header was superbly saved by Lockwood, but the YM ‘keeper could only get a hand to the striker’s follow up and the ball dropped inside the far post.
Horsham YMCA: Lockwood, Carden, Gathern, Pollard (Crane 63), D.Sullivan, Gedling, Dugdale, D.Brown, Wright (White 74), Hibbert, Schaaf. Unused subs: Fox, Horner.