Cousins hits stoppage time stunner to topple leaders Horsham YMCA and give Broadbridge Heath a festive double
George Cousins' stoppage time stunner helped Broadbridge Heath complete a Christmas derby double and toppled Horsham YMCA from the top of the Premier Division.
Nearly 200 people dragged themselves away from the post-Christmas sales to watch an engrossing derby between two sides enjoying profitable seasons.
YM were looking to maintain their push for the title and promotion whilst Heath’s target of a top-six finish is now still very much within reach as they backed up their 2-1 Boxing Day success at Loxwood with victory at Gorings Mead on Saturday.
The game, as often with these derbies, was not full of flowing football but there was plenty of cut and thrust to keep the crowd entertained.
Heath had to contend with the absences of Andy Waddingham, Charlie Leach, skipper Tom Howard-Bold, Scott Weller and the injured Richard Wetton, although welcomed back top scorer Devon Fender after a seven-match absence, Shaun Findlay and Marlon Maxwell.
YM have also had to content with a lengthy injury list with Ollie Gill, captain Ash Dugdale, Luke Donaldson, Dave Brown, Alex Malins and Tom Gilbert amongst them.
Heath started well with the pace of Fender and trickery of Cousins linking well with Dean Wright to get behind the home back four without getting the important last touch.
The game then settled into a war of attrition with first one side then the other threatening to get the upper hand without actually making the breakthrough.
YM came close to breaking the deadlock when a free kick was headed goalwards for Kieron Thorp to push the ball against the bar and the rebound was cleared.
At the other end, Moore, Wright and Cousins all shot over the bar and Martyn Flack had a header go over and a shot blocked.
Heath again begun on the front foot in the second half, but gradually found themselves pushed back by the hosts.
Pete Buckland brought on ex Horsham favourite Tony Nwachukwu for Dean Bown and Jack Frankland for present Horsham player Jack Hartley in a bid to step up the bid for an important three points.
Into the last ten minutes it appeared to be a fight to last out for a point for Heath. But with Lee Carney demanding his players got forward more the balance began to shift and Fender was inches wide when set up by Wright on the edge of the box.
Aaron Jeal in the home goal scrambled a shot from Carney around the post and Ryan Brackpool hit the bar with a header from one of a series of corners.
As the game entered stoppage time, another Heath corner was only half cleared and the second cross found its way to Cousins out on the far corner of the penalty area and he lashed a ferocious shot into the top corner of the net.
YM were left with four minutes to save a point but despite throwing everything at Heath, could not break through.
Heath’s first game of 2019, on Saturday, is another six pointer as they journey to Pagham who are three places place and two points below them below them but with a couple of games in hand.
Heath boss Steve Painter is hoping to have up to six players back available as well as aiming to bring in at least one new player going into the new year.
YM meanwhile will be hoping to bounce straight back and narrow the four-point gap on new leaders Chichester City when they host Shoreham on Saturday.
Horsham YMCA: Jeal, Hunt, Harding, Donaghey, Evans, Hartley (Frankland 61), Gedling, Mobsby, Barbary, Garrod, Bown (Nwachukwu 61). Unused: Pavlovic, Eales, Pearse.
Heath: Thorp, Flack, Robinson, Maxwell, Brackpool, Carney, Moore, Findlay, Wright, Cousins, Fender. Unused Subs: D Riecker, Jones, Blake.