Peter Buckland was ‘grateful for a win on such a mixed-up day’ as ten-man Horsham YMCA overcame Hassock 2-1 at home in the Premier Division on Saturday.
The visitors took an early lead through Jake Lindsey before second-half strikes from Jack Hartley and Alex Barbary put YM ahead.
Goalscorer Hartley was then sent off for a second booking late on but YMCA held on to extend their unbeaten streak to 12.
The Gorings Mead-outfit remain second but any dreams of a late title charge are over after Chichester City were confirmed as champions following their 2-0 home win over Langney Wanderers.
Buckland said: “It was a peculiar day. Both Mark (Dalgleish, Hassocks boss) and I were consoling each other due to unavailability.
“We both had five out and we were both stood talking to each other at quarter-to-one when we both received texts saying we’d both lost another player. Ollie Gill was due to start but pulled out with a tummy bug. Tom Gilbert came in and could only make it to half-time.
“Towards the end it was chaos. I didn’t know what formation we were playing.
“We were 1-0 down at half-time and Tom came off so we had to move Jack Frankland into the centre of midfield, and Adam Hunt was out of position, but we came through and won the second-half comfortably.
“I said to the lads, look it was a funny old day at the office but we’ve got three points. I was grateful for a win on such a mixed up day.”
Hassocks were missing ex-YM hotshot Phil Johnson but still managed to take the lead on five minutes through Lindsey. The Robins created chances after going ahead but failed to double their advantage before the break.
SEE ALSO Buckland hails young guns as Horsham YMCA scoop Team of the Month award for March | Horsham YMCA 'deflated' after last-gasp Newhaven equaliser but Buckland sees the positives | Substitute Evans praised as the game changer in Horsham YMCA’s late victory
The hosts were much more enterprising in the second-half and levelled through Hartley ten minutes after the restart.
Barbary then smashed the ball past Robins keeper Josh Green into the top-left corner on 63 minutes to give Buckland’s side the lead.
Hartley, Dean Bown and sub Tony Nwachukwu all had chances to make the game safe, with Nwachukwu guilty of spurning an easy close-range header to settle YM nerves.
Hartley was then penalised for diving in the box and was shown his second yellow.
The visitors began to use their numerical advantage to put YMCA under immense pressure but the Robins couldn’t force the elusive equaliser.
On Hartley’s red Buckland said: “The Hassocks defender said he clipped Jack on the heel. Jack danced past three, ran into the six-yard box and had a defender chasing him and went down.
“I said to the referee, why would he go down when he can easily slot the ball home?”
“I don’t think that the ref had realised he had already been booked for not moving back ten-yards at a free-kick. We can’t contest it because it’s two yellows but I haven’t a clue why he booked Jack for a dive.”
YM travel to near-neighbours Broadbridge Heath on Saturday April 20.
Horsham YMCA: Jeal, Carden, Frankland, Gilbert, Harding, Gedling, Hartley, Hunt, Bown, Barbary, Evans. Subs: Ryder, Nwachukwu, Eales.