Leaders Horsham YMCA’s nine-game winning run was ended on Tuesday night as the SCFL Premier Division title race tightened up, but Peter Buckland said his side won’t be ‘chucking the towel in’.
Second half goals from Kaleem Haithem and Lorenzo Dolcetti gave Chichester City a 2-0 victory at Gorings Mead in what was YM’s first league defeat since November.
That result sees YM remain top, three points ahead of Three Bridges, who have exactly the same goal difference and a game in hand.
Pagham and Chi are both six points behind, also with a game in hand.
Buckland has said for weeks that the title race would see twists and turns in the run-in, but he remains focused on their own fixtures.
The YM boss said: “When there were ten games to go, I said to them that we would lose another game - it would have been lovely to have gone unbeaten, but it was unlikely. There were going to be twists and turns as expected.
“There will be lots of talk now, but it’s my job now as a manager to pick them up at training and look ahead to Saturday’s game and go again.
“I thought all along it will go down to that and I think it will go down to the last game.
“The message from us is we are not chucking the towel in. We had a chat after the game and fired them up already. We said there would be one hiccup - there it was - now we are looking to Saturday. I’m excited, not worried.”
Buckland bemoaned two ‘uncharacteristic’ mistakes that gifted Chichester both goals in the second half of Tuesday night’s defeat.
YM were without the injured Luke Gedling and Sam Schaaf and Buckland said they conceded the first goal when trying to reshuffle to replace the injured Callum Donaghey – suffering from a reccurring stomach-muscle problem.
Fellow defender Guy Harding then trod on the ball at the back and Haithem took it off him to run through and score nine minutes into the second half.
Chance came and went at each end, before City made the game safe on 77 minutes.
An Ollie Moore back pass from midfield was short and Dolcetti this time raced through to finish. Buckland added: “There were two uncharacteristic mistakes and two goals, we got punished for both. In the first half we matched them all over the park, but it was a stalemate from a spectators point of view.
“I was really pleased with the first half performance, we could have ground out a draw, but the mistakes cost us.”
On Saturday YM welcome Peacehaven & Telscombe before hosting Eastbourne Town in the semi-final of the Peter Bentley Cup on Tuesday.
Horsham YMCA: A.Jeal, Carden, Gilbert, Donaghey (Evans 73), Harding, Donaldson, Moore (Cave 82), Dugdale, Johnson, Brown, Garrod. Unused: Curtis, C.Jeal, Jones.