In a derby meeting between two in-form sides, it was Loxwood that ended Horsham YMCA’s unbeaten run with a hard-earned 2-1 win in the Premier Division.
On the back of four consecutive wins of their own, David Cocoracchio’s Magpies had plenty of reasons to be hopeful going into the game, despite the equally-fine form of their opponents.
YM, with just one defeat in ten before the game, failed to take advantage of several opportunities to take an early lead, while at the other end Harry Bachelor missed a one-on-one chance.
The Magpies were then awarded a penalty just before the half-hour mark. Callum Donaghey brought down Tiago Andrade in the box, who got back up to coolly slot home to give the hosts the lead.
Chances came and went at either end in the second half until the 84th minute when Loxwood converted a second.
Ollie Moore received the ball around 20 yards out, and fired into the bottom corner, all but ending YM’s hopes of getting back into the game.
The visitors did claim a consolation goal when Eddie French was penalised for an alleged handball and Luke Gedling dispatched the resulting penalty in the fourth minute of injury time.
However it was too little, too late for YM, who drop to eighth in the table – one place below a climbing Loxwood.
Cocoracchio said: “I was delighted with the performance and the result on Saturday against the in-form team in the division.
“Over the course of the 95 minutes we were by far the better side and well worthy of the three points.
“We weren’t at our best in the first half especially defensively and both teams had opportunities to score.
“We gave them a lot of problems out wide getting behind their left-back numerous times.
“In the second half we were very well organised and we created numerous opportunities and restricted them to a couple of have chances at best.”
One downside for Loxwood was missing out on their fourth constructive clean sheet after conceding late on.
An overhead kick saw the ball hit French in the face, with Cocoracchio adding: “To everyone’s astonishment the referee pointed to the penalty spot and booked Eddie while he had blood pouring out of his nose where the ball hit him. The boys were devastated to have conceded.”
YM manager Peter Buckland accepted they lost to the better side.
He said: “It was a good, tight battle – a typical local derby. We played really well in the first half and had three golden opportunities to be a goal or two up but failed to take them.
“We didn’t play badly at all and Loxwood were better than us on the day and they got the points. All good runs have to come to an end at some point.
“I’m confident we can pick up where we left off, go on another run and work our way back up the table again. We’ve lost the battle, but we haven’t lost the war.”
Buckland suggested the outcome could have been different if they were awarded a penalty before Loxwood scored one themselves.
He added: “The only contentious issue was when Phil Johnson was through one-on-one and was caught by the keeper by a trailing arm. If he’d have gone down it would have been a penalty, but the ref said ‘play on’ and he put it wide of the empty net. Anywhere else on the pitch it would have been brought back for a free-kick.”