This was a game full of controversy as Broadbridge Heath lost by the narrowest of margins against Chichester at Oakland’s Park.
A seven-goal thriller was edged out by the hosts 4-3, but Heath were left to rue what they felt was a definite foul in the build-up to Josh Case’s winning goal and themselves being denied a penalty.
The opener came in the fifth minute as a Heath corner was smashed straight at Andy Howard’s back by a defender and it rebounded off him into the net.
There were chances at both ends, before on 27 minutes, Jamal Sultan split the defence with an inch-perfect pass into Shaun Findlay, who smashed the ball past Max Whittingham.
City’s long-ball approach paid off in the second half when first Jimmy Wild pulled a goal back on 52 minutes and three minutes later Scott Jones headed them level.
On the hour-mark another long ball from the right was caught by Heath first team debutant keeper Paul Taylor under pressure, but the ball slipped out of his grasp and into the net.
Heath started to get on top and with 13 minutes remaining, Whittingham tried to claim a long free-kick, but also failed to hold on to the ball and Tiago Andrade was quick to pounce and level.
Heath now looked the more likely side to score with wave after wave of attacks,before the controversy began.
Chichester’s Josh Clack clearly fouled Heath defender Howard just yards from the dugouts. Despite Howard lying prostrate and the appeals from the Heath dugout and supporters, the referee allowed Clack to continue and he set up Case who tapped in.
As the game heated up, Chichester were reduced to ten men when substitute Kieran Hartley was shown a straight red for a late tackle on Sultan. In the closing minutes Marlon Maxwell was hauled down from behind, but once again the officials waved away Heath’s claims.
With seconds remaining Whittingham again denied Heath with a finger-tip save from a Sultan thunderbolt from 20 yards.
Heath manager Steve Painter refused to blame the officials for the team’s defeat and said: “We lost the game because we failed to defend long balls played into our penalty area.
“Yes the officials made some mistakes but it wasn’t their fault we failed to defend and we need to take a close look at ourselves first.”
A first-half Andrade goal helped Heath end hotly-fancied Haywards Heath’s 100 per cent start to the season on Saturday in a 1-0 victory.
Heath entertain Crowborough Athletic in the FA Vase on Saturday.
Heath: Taylor, Holvey, Robinson, Maxwell, Howard, McDermott (Weller 55), Hunter, Findlay, Andrade, Liddell (Cousins 70), Sultan.