Peter Buckland hailed the impact of his youngsters as Horsham YMCA picked up a 4-1 home win over Arundel on Saturday to see them up to second-place in the Premier Division.
Newhaven’s 0-0 draw with Lingfield saw the Gorings Mead-outfit move a point ahead of their promotion rivals, although Haven do have a game in hand.
Second-half strikes from Tony Nwachukwu, Dean Bown, Jack Hartley, and youngster Bradley Ross effectively confirmed victory for YM before Ben Gray reduced the arrears with a late penalty.
YMCA are now unbeaten in eight in the league, notching up five consecutive victories.
Buckland said: “We were again struggling like mad with players out so we had five under-23s players drafted in to the squad Saturday.
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“They didn’t let us down at all. I was very pleased with them.
“Because there were so many changes we tried a different formation in the first-half and I could tell within ten, 15 minutes that it wasn’t suitable.
“I thought we’ll get to half-time and we’ll change it and I take myself as a tactical genius for that.
“We needed to be more expansive and we needed more width so we put two players out wide to get in behind the full-backs and it worked a treat.
“It was a mediocre first-half. Both teams decided we didn’t want to score but we owned the second-half. We had good goals come at the right time.”
After a goalless first 45 minutes, YM needed just a minute after the restart to go ahead.
Nwachukwu’s shot from distance looked to be easy for Mullets ‘keeper Dan Stevens, but the Arundel stopper fumbled the ball over the line to give the hosts the lead.
Bown doubled the advantage on 57 minutes through a typical fox-in-the-box finish from the YMCA forward.
Sub Jack Frankland picked out Hartley at the far post to head home and make it three on 76 minutes.
Ross made it four with seven minutes to go as he tucked home after Alex Barbary’s shot was parried out.
Grey reduced the deficit from the spot with the last kick of the game after a foul by Frankland.
Buckland added: “It’s nice to have some of the kids coming through and getting that experience.
“I’ve got no hesitations to start them in any game. I wouldn’t worry about taking them down to Newhaven for instance.
“What you do get is no fear with them. There’s no preconception about what they’re going to face and what they’re going to do.
“Kids at that age don’t pay any attention to the scoreline, they just keep going. At 4-0 up they were still hungry and wanted to carry on.”
YM travel to Lancing on Saturday.
Horsham YMCA: Jeal, Carden, Harding, Gilbert, Gedling, Nwachukwu (Frankland 72), Barbary, Bown, Eales (Wadhams 46), Hartley, J Ryder (Ross 70). Unused: Pavlovic, A Ryder.