Peter Buckland described it as one of his proudest moment as Horsham YMCA manager as a Sam Schaaf hat-trick helped nine-man YM to a battling win at Littlehampton on Tuesday evening.
In a feisty encounter at the Sportsfield, YM pinched a 3-2 lead on the stroke of half-time, having already had captain Ash Dugdale sent off.
Dave Brown also received a straight red card with 15 minutes remaining and although Golds struck back to level, Schaaf completed his hat-trick to give YM a superb three points.
Buckland said: “That makes up for Saturday’s disappointment. If somebody had said to me that we would go down to Littlehampton and play half of the second half with nine men, you’d say that one was gone, but there’s three points in the bag.
“The result has livened us up again. It is probably one of my proudest moments in my time as manager at YM to be honest. It is that good a feeling.
“How can you grumble at a gutsy performance like that? To a man they were brilliant. It was Sam’s best performance in a YM shirt and I knew it was coming, that’s why I tormented him in the last game and just let him off the leash.”
Schaaf lashed home after just eight minutes, but the hosts levelled through Dan Kempson after the quarter-hour mark as defender Kev Burgess failed to clear.
Schaaf then restored the visitors’ lead just after the half-hour mark, before Golds player-manager George Gaskin quickly restored parity as he capitalised on a terribly short Burgess back pass.
Dugdale was shown a straight red for a two-footed tackle just before the break, with the visitors left aggrieved that referee Lukasz Sipior was swayed by the reaction from the Littlehampton players and bench.
Visitors’ coach Lyndon Buckwell was also dismissed for his remonstrations, but frustration turned to delight as four minutes into added time, Johnson made it 3-2.
YM were forced to face the final quarter of the fixture with nine men, as Brown was also dismissed for a tackle on Gaskin, who picked himself up to level the scores again six minutes later.
But 90 seconds after conceding, YM poked their noses back in front for the final time as a superb solo run from Schaaf saw the striker complete his hat-trick and make it 4-3.
Buckland added: “I think Ash’s sending off was a red card. He left the ground with two feet. He isn’t a malicious player, but I think he made the decision easy for the referee, who was being assessed.
“Everyone in the entire pyramid knows that Ash isn’t a dirty player. I went in to see the referee at half-time and I said whether it was, or it wasn’t, he didn’t even blow up for a free-kick. The ball went out for a throw in and he was bullied by their players.
“Browny’s wasn’t a red. You could hear the contact with the ball, it wasn’t two footed and I think it was very harsh.”
Horsham YMCA: Fox, Carden, Gathern, Burgess, Evans, Hibbert, Dugdale, Gedling, Brown, Schaaf (Donaldson 85), Johnson (Wright 70).