Shoreham Football Club boss Bryan O’Toole expects his side to respond positively after losing their top-of-the-table clash at home to Haywards Heath on Saturday.
Mussels remain top of the Southern Combination League Premier Division but are now just two points ahead of Heath, with five games remaining each. Third-placed Chichester suffered a surprise 1-0 defeat at Peacehaven and remain five points behind the leaders.
O’Toole felt the best team lost Saturday’s clash but is backing his side to finish the season strongly: “We should have won, we had so many chances and I think everybody in the team must have gone close to scoring.
“They were good for a 20 minute spell but that was it and the best team lost the match.
“I’m frustrated we lost and disappointed with the goals we conceded but I said before the game that nothing would be won or lost on the day and we’re still in pole position.
“The pressure is on now. The players knew we didn’t have to win Saturday’s match but every time we’ve had a set-back so far this season, we’ve reacted well.
“We go to Newhaven on Saturday and I’m expecting a response, while Haywards Heath have a couple of tough games coming up against Littlehampton and Eastbourne Town.”
Haywards Heath took the lead after just three minutes when Trevor McCreadie broke through and slid the ball past Mussels keeper Josh Heyburn from close range.
Shoreham pushed for a leveller and Joe Keehan blazed over, Rob O’Toole was denied by Heath keeper Josh James from close range and also hit a post as the visitors went into the break a goal to the good.
Joe Shelley and Luke Donaldson went close to equalising, before Heath had Nathan Cooper sent off for two bookings on the hour.
The visitors still doubled their lead ten minutes later. Bryan O’Toole was disappointed with the decision to award the visitors a free kick and Jamie Weston’s inswinging left-footed set-piece from the right wing found its way into the far corner.
Shelley pulled a goal back with a fierce volley three minutes later when Heath failed to clear a corner.
Mussels then went close to levelling as Rob O’Toole had two strikes in quick succession blocked, Lee Denyer had an effort charged down and Donaldson flashed an effort wide of the far post.
With Shoreham pushing forward, Heath added a third with just three minutes to go through former Mussels striker Melford Simpson to seal all three points.
The title race now looks a two-horse race, after Chichester’s defeat at Peacehaven. After Saturday’s trip to Newhaven, Shoreham finish their season with games against Horsham YMCA, Pagham, Lancing and Arundel.
Haywards Heath still have to play Littlehampton, Eastbourne Town, Hassocks, Loxwood and Horsham YMCA.
SHOREHAM: Heyburn; Hartley, Dryer, Shelley, Pearson, O’Hagan, Packer, J.Keehan, Pamment, R.O’Toole, Cradock. Subs: Donaldson (Packer 50), Denyer (Cradock 65), Burton (Hartley 75), Kneller, Caplin.
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