Broadbridge Heath close in on promotion

The Broadbridge Heath squad - missing captain Andy Howard. They need just a point from their last three games to secure promotion
The Broadbridge Heath squad - missing captain Andy Howard. They need just a point from their last three games to secure promotion

Broadbridge Heath are all but guaranteed to follow in Loxwood’s footsteps by achieving promotion to Division One for only the second time in their history.

That is after their 2-2 draw with league leaders Eastbourne United AFC on Tuesday night left a nine-point gap between them in third and fourth-placed Haywards Heath, who drew at home to Westfield.

With a +40 better goal difference and only three games remaining it would take a miracle for Haywards Heath to overtake The Bears in what has been a remarkable season for Steve Painter’s team.

United, who themselves have had a fantastic season and came so close to reaching Wembley in the FA Vase last Saturday, needed just one point from this game to guarantee promotion.

They arrived at the Leisure Centre with a formidable looking side of players experienced at playing Ryman League football or above and some still playing at that level but dual-signed to allow them to play for United. Compare that to the Heath players, the majority of whom have come through the Heath youth teams and you can then understand how pleased the management were just to get a point from this encounter.

In fact it was Heath who took an early lead after only five minutes, a free kick was awarded wide on the right which Piers McDermott played deep into the visitors penalty area, defenders desperately tried to clear the ball which came out to Ollie Moore, who smashed it first time with his right foot and the ball flew past the United keeper into the roof of the net.

The visitors deservedly equalised midway through the half through former Hastings man Sean Ray, his first attempt from just outside the penalty area was blocked by Martyn Flack but Ray coolly picked his spot with the follow-up into the corner of the net wide of Heath keeper James Fisher.

15 minutes before the break Fisher was forced into action when he tipped a free kick from distance over the crossbar but the score remained level at the break.

Within minutes of the restart Heath were awarded a free kick from a similar position and Tiago Andrade showed his qualities with a shot that dipped narrowly over the crossbar with the keeper well beaten.

In the 50th minute Jake Holmes split the visitors defence, allowing Andrade a free run at goal but the striker over-hit the ball which went through to the Eastbourne keeper. He though fumbled under pressure and the ball hit Andrade as he ran in and ricocheted into the goal, giving Heath the lead for the second time in the match.

As anticipated the visitors put the Heath defence under a lot of pressure in search of the equaliser, but Painter’s side stood firm and looked dangerous themselves on the counter-attack.

With ten minutes remaining the visitors finally got their reward when a long ball forward was played into the Heath penalty area and fell to Wes Tate, who made sure from eight yards to bring his team level.

In the final minute Heath could have won the game when Jamal Sultan broke away down the right, played the ball into Andrade but his first touch let him down and the ball ran away.

So a very entertaining game for the supporters, probably a fair result and one that means Eastbourne Utd are back in Division One and Heath are almost there too.

BBH: Fisher, Sultan, Alfieri, Flack, Attwater, Waddingham, McDermott, Moore (Thomas 85), Purkis (Wood 80), Andrade, Holmes (Godfrey 67).