Horsham YMCA returned to Premier Division action on Saturday with a scrappy 3-0 win away at second bottom East Preston.
Despite the seemingly convincing score line, a disjointed YM made hard work of things for large parts of a fragmented affair.
Nick Sullivan netted twice before the break and Dave Brown headed home a third ten minutes from the end, before visitors’ goalkeeper Mark Fox saved a late Alex Wilson penalty to preserve a clean sheet and aid Peter Buckland’s side in maintaining their unbeaten start to 2016.
He said: “We made hard work of it. It was a scrappy performance but I knew down here, in the conditions and at this time of year, that it was more about the three points than the display.
“I had to manage the squad, phasing players back into the team, and I think we were able to do that quite nicely.
“It wasn’t pretty. I feel sorry for anyone that paid £6 to get in and watch, but I don’t think that the result was in doubt.
“We had one or two close shaves, but we could also have easily been 3-0 up inside the first five minutes if we’d had a bit more composure. When the third goal went in I was mightily relieved.”
Dean Wright watched a low strike cleared off the line by home skipper Matt Woodward, before the YM forward then turned provider for Brown, who blazed high over the crossbar.
A rare EP sight of goal arrived when a short George Loughlin corner picked out Dan Huet on the edge of the area, but he shot over.
Sullivan then broke the deadlock on ten minutes as Wright crossed for the YM front man, whose initial first time effort was parried by goalkeeper Reece Markwick, before he slammed the rebound home.
EP striker Kris Harding curled wide of the far post, before Sullivan doubled his and YM’s tally midway through the half, coolly slotting the ball past Markwick.
The home side could have entered the break only one goal behind, as just before half-time, a fantastic Jake Cockerton cross found Huet unmarked at the far post, but his shot was well saved by Fox.
The second period was a far scrappier affair. A whipped Brown free-kick came crashing back off of the underside of the crossbar midway through the half, Matt Crane saw a header from a corner cleared off the line and substitute Phil Johnson’s follow up effort was blocked.
Brown did finally add a third, although any one of three unmarked YM attackers at the far post could have applied the finishing touch to a Luke Gedling free-kick.
Late on Crane fouled Wilson just inside the area, but YM ‘keeper Fox dived smartly to his left to save and conserve YM’s 11th clean sheet of the season.
Horsham YMCA: Fox, Carden, Crane, Burgess, Evans, Dugdale, Hibbert (Donaldson 72), Gedling, Brown, Wright (Johnson 63), N.Sullivan (Schaaf 63). Unused subs: Gathern, D.Sullivan.
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