Horsham YMCA bounced back from their humiliating defeat to Loxwood in midweek with a determined 4-2 win away at St Francis Rangers in Division 1 action on Saturday.
It initially appeared that YM were going to continue from where they left off at Gorings Mead on Tuesday evening, as they found themselves behind after just four minutes. But the visitors responded well and levelled through midfielder Brad Curtis midway through the first period.
Peter Buckland’s side were then reduced to ten men for the second game running when defender Lee Wood was shown a straight red card by referee Nigel Baker for a lunging tackle right on the stroke of half time.
But again YM found a reply after the break, as goals from Dan Evans and Nick Sullivan turned the game on its head. A late Rangers penalty provided a tense few minutes until any chance of a host’s comeback was quashed when substitute Martin Smith rifled home the visitors’ fourth in added time.
YM started sharply, Luke Gedling seeing his strike from distance tipped onto the crossbar by Rangers’ goalkeeper Rob Gordon, before Nick Sullivan blasted the follow up well over.
But it was the hosts who took the lead two minutes later. James Westlake found space and after his twenty-five yard strike was parried by YM ‘keeper Simon Lockwood, Rickie Peacock was on hand to eventually pick up the pieces and stab home.
Despite going behind, the visitors still looked the more dangerous going forwards. Curtis saw a shot from just outside the area pushed round the post by Gordon, before captain for the afternoon Dave Brown, standing in for injured skipper Ash Dugdale, fired just wide of the far post shortly after.
The equaliser then arrived on eighteen minutes when St Francis failed to clear their lines on halfway and Sullivan nipped in front of his man before releasing Curtis, who coolly rolled the ball in off the far post after racing clean through.
The midfielder should have doubled his tally for the afternoon five minutes later, when the superb Sullivan’s poked effort was saved by Gordon and the rebound fell to Curtis, but his side footed strike was again well matched with a strong palm from the Rangers’ stopper.
The home side ended the half well, albeit threatening mainly from set pieces. A glancing Stephen Smith header first clipped the outside of the far post, before YM had stopper Lockwood to thank for keeping the scores level, as he pulled off a fine reaction save to deny Josh Bryant’s header from finding the top corner.
Buckland’s side were then reduced to ten men in added time at the end of the first half when full back Wood was brandished with a straight red card for a lunging tackle that caught St Francis’ Jamie Weston just below the knee.
Unlike their dismal display against Loxwood in midweek however, YM showed some true character and resolve after the break to compensate for the disadvantage in personnel.
And four minutes after the restart they were ahead thanks to a superb solo effort from defender Evans. The full back picked the ball up on the left and after marauding past two Rangers’ defenders, cut inside before rifling the ball into the top corner with his unfavoured right foot.
The two sides continued to exchange blows as the hosts’ Westlake watched a low free kick cannon back off the post, before Gordon denied Sullivan with a superb close range save at the opposite end after some good work from Curtis.
Sullivan made amends for that missed opportunity six minutes later though, as after Liam Hunter broke forward and released the striker, he neatly slotted the ball inside the far post to provide the visitors with some breathing space at 3-1.
Rangers continued to press forwards however, and after another Westlake free kick ricocheted back off the upright, YM defender Matt Crane clumsily fouled his man inside the box and the referee pointed to the spot.
Weston coolly converted the penalty to offer the home side a lifeline with two minutes of normal time to play, but any chance of a St Francis fight back was then spoiled by YM substitute Smith, who arrowed the ball into the roof of the net to secure all three points in added time.