Horsham YMCA slipped to their fourth defeat in six Premier Division games, losing 2-1 against Newhaven, and boss Peter Buckland was left perplexed by his side’s persistent ‘bad luck’.
As one of six teams still to play their final league game of the season, fourth place is the best position that YM can achieve, despite previously looking to be on course to comfortably seal promotion after a near faultless mid-season run of form.
They went into the game against the Dockers looking for their first home win since February, and took the lead after just two minutes through Callum Donaghey, but two controversial goals by the visitors, either side of a Guy Harding red card, turned the game on its head.
Buckland said: “I don’t know how much more bad luck we can experience than what we have had over the last few weeks. It’s always a good, tight game against Newhaven and for a game that didn’t have a lot riding on it, both sets of players put in a really good shift.
“We got off to a flying start, scoring from a corner in the second minute, but as our luck goes, not long before half time, a long ball was put up to their striker who controlled it with his hand to deflect it around the full back and ran on to put it round the keeper and score.
“Everybody in the ground could see it was handball, except the two people that matter- the linesman and the referee.
“The referee apologised at half-time saying it sounds like he got it totally wrong and the goal shouldn’t have stood. He can only give what he sees and that’s the way football goes.”
Buckland was then left seething again in the second half when centre-half Harding was sent off for an apparent handball outside the area, which the ref adjudged to have denied a goal scoring opportunity.
He added: “The irony of it all is that early in the second half, there was another long ball over the top, Guy Harding chested the ball away but the ref perceived it to be handball and gave him a straight red card.
“It wasn’t in the confines of the penalty area, it was out wide, so even if he did handball it, which he didn’t, it wasn’t a goal scoring opportunity.
“Guy had only one yellow card all season, as that’s the sort of player he is, and the tragedy of it is, one of our fairest players of the season is now going to miss the cup final.”
More salt was added to YM’s wounds in the last minute of stoppage time, when Sebastian Saunders fired in a winner for Newhaven following a corner, albeit further contention.
“You couldn’t make it up,” Buckland said. “On 90 minutes the ref said he was adding on four minutes, no more breaks in play, but they bundled it home in the 97th minute and in my opinion it was offside.
“I can only hope our luck changes before the cup final.”
Horsham YMCA: Jeal, Carden, Evans, Harding, Donaghey, Gedling, Johnson, Dugdale, Schaaf, Cave (Cooke 59), Brown.