Burgess Hill cling on to victory to reach Senior Cup final
Burgess Hill Town booked their place in the final of the Sussex Senior Challenge Cup with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Haywards Heath Town at a foggy Culver Road.
The added quality of the Bostik Premier Division side proved to be a step too far for Heath, who shipped two early goals from Pat Harding and Aiden Enver that ultimately decided the tie.
The Hillians will meet either Bognor Regis Town or Brighton and Hove Albion at the end of the season.
Burgess Hill opened the scoring with their first real surge forward inside four minutes, when Aaron Smith-Joseph’s drilled ball in from the edge of the area was flicked up over the six-yard box and fell kindly to Harding at the back post, who dispatched with ease.
They added another in the tenth minute in the form of a spectacular strike from midfielder Enver, who expertly controlled on the edge of the box and fired in on the volley, rendering Heath goalkeeper Josh Heyburn helpless.
Simon Wormull’s side continued to control the game, winning the midfield battle and leaving their opponents to fire hopeful long balls up to isolated attackers.
Heath’s best chance of the opening period came from an Alex Laing free-kick in the 29th minute, which dipped and swerved over the wall to strike the base of the post with the goalkeeper well-beaten.
Laing again came close as half-time approached after he was picked out at the back post by former Hillian Callum Saunders, forcing Josh James into action, and Burgess Hill had another chance to net a minute before the break when Tom Cadman flashed a shot goalwards, with the ball needing a touch from the goalkeeper to stay out.
After the interval Haywards Heath looked far more energetic, moving the ball with urgency as they looked to play off substitute striker Melford Simpson, and they worked themselves back into the tie in the 53rd minute through Saunders, who was in the right place at the right time inside the box to control and finish past a sprawling James to hand the Blues a lifeline.
A fantastic last-ditch tackle on the hour mark from Sean Roddy kept Heath in the match after Smith-Joseph had rounded the keeper, and they nearly capitalised on an erratic goalmouth scramble to draw level with twenty minutes remaining, but nobody in a blue and white shirt could find the elusive touch.
The winter mist engulfed the pitch in the closing stages, forcing the referee to halt play; however, the fog lifted shortly afterwards, allowing the game to continue.
But there were no last-gasp heroics for Haywards Heath, who will feel that they could have won it on a different day.
Burgess Hill manager Simon Wormull was delighted with the result, citing his side’s defensive strength as a deciding factor.
“I think if we show that kind of resilience for the rest of the season then hopefully we will pick up the points that we need,” he said.
(A selection of photographs can be found on Facebook - courtesy of Simon Roe Photography)
Stats: (Haywards Heath-Burgess Hill)
Goals: 1-2; Shots: 10-7; Shots-on-target: 5-5; Corners: 5-3; Fouls: 4-12; Yellow cards: 2-0; Red cards: 0-0.
Haywards Heath Town: Heyburn, Roddy, Weston, Louis, Cooper ©, Spinks, Saunders, Akehurst, Dalhouse, Napper, Laing.
Subs: McCreadie, Simpson, Finney, Rowe, Gray-Branford.
Burgess Hill Town: James, Bennett, Cadman, Wilson, Toure, Richmond, Appau, Enver, Harding, Beck ©, Smith-Joseph,
Subs: Choules, Sargent, Tuck, Short, Ryder.
Match report by Archie Griggs