A George Cousins hat-trick helped a ‘hard-working’ Broadbridge Heath to their first Premier Division win in seven attempts on Tuesday night.
The Bears eased to a 4-1 victory over basement boys Littlehampton Town in gale-forced winds at the Sportsfield with Javlon Campbell also on target.
Assistant manager Steve Whiting took charge of the Bears with Steve Painter away and welcomed back Martyn Flack, who missed Saturday’s draw at Arundel, and Tom Frankland, from injury, but he was without strikers Tiago Andrade, Tim Martin and Devon Fender. That meant a change of formation to 4-4-2 pushing George Cousins up front to play alongside Javlon Campbell.
The ball was in the back of the net inside two minutes when Gicu Iordache crossed from the left to Stuart Chester, who played the ball first time across the face of goal to an unmarked Campbell, who smashed it into the net from close range, but the linesman had spotted an offside and the goal was disallowed.
The opening goal was scored on 19 minutes; Cousins received the ball 30 yards from goal and unleashed a right-foot shot into the bottom corner of the net inches away from the outstretched left arm of Littlehampton keeper Jack Collins.
Heath continued to pressurise the home defence and scored a second when Iordache again found space down the left flank, whipped in a low cross into the penalty area where defender Danny Hand tried to clear with his right foot but off-balance he fell backwards and the ball sliced off his foot onto his hand. The referee deemed this a deliberate handball and Cousins stepped up to drill the spot kick into the bottom left corner.
On the half-hour mark, the hosts were awarded a free kick which was launched into the Heath penalty area before being cleared by a defender, but once again the referee was called across by his assistant and after consultation a penalty was awarded to the home side and Hand drilled the resulting spot kick with power straight down the middle.
Heath continued to create chances; Stuart Chester won the ball off a defender and ran through on goal before hitting a thunderbolt from 16 yards which stung the hands of Collins. Jamie Robinson linked up well with Cousins on the left to drill a shot inches wide of the right post and in the final minutes of the half Cousins struck a shot just wide of the post but it remained 2-1 at the break.
With the wind now on their backs the expectations were that Heath would further dominate play but that wasn’t the case, diagonal balls down the flanks that worked in the first half were too often running away from the forwards with the blustery conditions causing both teams problems.
The first chance didn’t arrive until midway through the half when the hosts were awarded a free kick which was pumped high into the Heath penalty area where Liam Humphreys rose above defenders to power a header goal-wards forcing Michael Chester to make his first save of the game.
Into the final 10 minutes and Heath were almost punished for their missed chances when Jason Jarvis found space in the penalty area to get off a shot that came off the outside of the right post.
The game was killed off with just minutes remaining and it left the home-side fuming. Scott Weller was brought down some 30 yards from goal an easy decision for the referee, but a few of the home players thought otherwise and while they were making their protests to the referee, Tom Bold took a quick free kick playing the ball to Cousins in acres of space on the edge of the penalty area.
The Heath player hesitated thinking the referee would call it back but with his team-mates urging him to put the ball in the back of the net he duly obliged.
Deep into time added on, Shaun Findlay pumped a long speculative ball forward from the back sending Campbell through on goal and the striker coolly converted to make it four and with it bringing an end to the nights proceedings.
Whiting was delighted with the team’s performance, he said: “The players worked really hard tonight and deserved the victory,” and he had special praise for skipper Bold saying: “He’s been ill all week but was so determined to play that he came off his sick bed, he’s still feeling rough now but didn’t want to let the team down.”
Of the third goal, Whiting added: “Tom had already asked the referee if he could take a quick free kick, so there was nothing wrong with the goal, their players switched off and we took full advantage.”