Horsham YMCA kept their hopes of a top two finish alive as they beat Hailsham Town 2-1 at The Beaconsfield on Saturday.
YM bounced back from their Sussex Senior Cup semi-final defeat to Bognor Regis Town just 48 hours before, as they secured all three points to keep up the pressure on the teams above them heading into the final day of the season on Saturday.
YM manager Peter Buckland had made it clear before kick-off that his side must win against the Stringers or else the final day of the season would be meaningless, and they did just that as all the goals came in the first period.
The visitors took the lead midway through the half through top goalscorer Nick Sullivan, only for a Steve Dallaway penalty to put the hosts level two minutes later.
The game’s eventual winner followed just ten minutes after that, as YM midfielder Luke Gedling’s first goal since returning to the club last month put the visitors back in front.
YM boss Buckland said: “We had a tough old game. We were running on empty and paid for not killing the game off in the first half really.
“It should have been 4-1 at half time and we could have had the breather that we perhaps deserved.
“But at 2-1 you can’t, and so we had to slog it out. It was quite a tight second half. On reflection, I don’t think they were ever going to score, but it was still on the edge of your seat stuff.
“I just wanted to get the game out of the way. The lads all said afterwards that they were mentally and physically tired and we looked it too. I’m delighted to have got the three points.”
The win means YM are now just a point behind third-placed Littlehampton and three points behind current runners-up East Grinstead, heading into the final round of fixtures on Saturday.
Buckland’s side will need to beat Chichester City at Gorings Mead and then hope that Littlehampton slip up away at Newhaven and Ringmer beat the Wasps at The Caburn Ground to secure second spot on goal difference.
With Division One champions East Preston understood to have failed their ground grading for the Ryman League - something YM already have in place - they still have an outside chance of promotion.
Buckland added: “We can potentially take everything down to the last game of the season. I stressed to the players that winning against Hailsham was important because if Littlehampton and East Grinstead do trip up then we’ll finish second, as long as we take care of our own business.
YM (4-4-2): Lockwood, Carden, Crane, Burgess, O’Carroll (B. Curtis 60), Evans (Wood 80), Gedling, Dugdale (c), D. Brown, D. Sullivan (Cox 70), N. Sullivan