Horsham YMCA’s opening day of the Sussex County League Division 1 season ended in defeat, as they were narrowly beaten 1-0 away at newly-promoted Eastbourne United AFC on Saturday.
Neither side offered a great deal in front of goal but it was the hosts, who lifted the Division 2 title last season, who secured all three points on their return to the top flight thanks to a second-half effort from Ashley Jarvis.
YM went close through Brad Curtis, Dave Brown and Dan Sullivan late on, but they failed to find that elusive equaliser needed to avoid defeat on the opening day of the campaign.
Manager Peter Buckland commented: “It was a typical first game of the season. The pitch was a bit bumpy and there was a strong wind. It was a difficult opener.
“It would have been nice to have got three points in our first game of the season, but no one has ever won or lost a title after losing their first game.
“We should have come away with something. We totally bossed the first half I think it’s fair to say, and I think anyone from Eastbourne would agree.
“We adapted well in the second half, and it was only an absolutely ridiculous fluke goal that cost us the game. It was a really, really poor goal to concede, but we missed our opportunities to come away with at least a point.”
The closest United came to finding the net during the first half was a Lucas Mann effort disallowed for offside just after the half hour mark, whilst Brown threatened for the visitors at the opposite end. The only goal of the game came eleven minutes after the break, when an Eastbourne corner deceived YM goalkeeper Simon Lockwood at the far post and Jarvis’ effort somehow found its way into the net through a packed six yard box.
Buckland added: “We went 4-1-4-1 and I thought with a tough game to start we’d at least try and not concede, and it was only the fluke goal that denied us doing just that. A 0-0 would have been a fair score line if I’m being honest.
“Nick Sullivan unfortunately had to pull out at 11.30am, which meant a bit of a late shuffle and to be honest we missed him. We created some big gaps in behind them and I know he would have put a couple of the chances we had away.
“Brad [Curtis] did his best up top, but he was playing out of position really, and although Craig [Grantham] played as an out and out striker when he came on, he is way short of match fitness.
“I think that is one of the toughest games of the season out of the way. Despite all the rumours, Eastbourne have got a good squad and team spirit and I don’t think that many teams will do that well down there.”
YM don’t have long to wait to put things right, as they face another of the newly promoted clubs and local rivals Broadbridge Heath at Gorings Mead in Division 1 on Tuesday evening, before hosting Alton Town in the FA Cup on Saturday.
Boss Buckland concluded: “We haven’t had a brilliant pre-season, and my biggest fear was complacency and how the players would react after last season, but I’m totally relaxed and upbeat now. They put in a really good shift.
“We’re like a wounded lion and can’t wait until Tuesday. Fortunately we haven’t got to sit around clicking our heels until next Saturday - we’ve got an immediate game at home, albeit a tough one against Broadbridge Heath.
“They have just come up and it will be a big game for them. They got off to a winning start against Loxwood, so they will come full of confidence and we’re going to have to be at our best.
“After Broadbridge Heath we’ve got the FA Cup, then Arundel and then Crawley Down, and so we could well have nine points after four games and find ourselves into the next round of the FA Cup. That’s how quickly it changes at this time of the season.”
YM: Lockwood, Carden, Crane, O’Carroll, Evans, Gedling, D. Sullivan (J. Brown 82), Hunter (Hyett 70), Dugdale (c), D. Brown, B. Curtis (Grantham 65). Unused subs: Flack, Ransom.