South Saxons Hockey Club’s men’s first team now only heads the table on goal difference going into a potentially season-defining top two clash.
Long-time leaders Saxons will host second-placed Southwick tomorrow (Saturday) with the teams now level on points at the Sussex Open Hockey League Division One summit after Saxons were beaten last weekend.
Saxons captain Jamie Busbridge said: “We’ve got a good home record and we’re all buzzing for the game on Saturday. We just want to go out there and prove why we should be winning the league, and hopefully we can do that.
“We’re confident we can see it through. If we get at least a draw and keep it in our own hands, we’ll be very pleased.
“They will be coming to us thinking they can get a result because they’ve won every game since we last played them. They must be playing some very good hockey so we’re going to have to be at our best to get something out of it.”
Alex Coombs and Toby Reed will return to the Saxons squad after missing the 2-1 loss away to third-placed Hailsham last weekend. Push-back at Horntye Park is 1.30pm.
Gavin Cload dropped to centre-back against Hailsham, with Chris Meredith moving into the midfield alongside brother Jon and Tudor Stainsby playing in the hole.
Saxons looked to assert themselves early on, but poor touches and misplaced passes meant they struggled to create many chances despite seemingly being allowed plenty of space with the away side pushing up the pitch.
It was Hailsham who made the breakthrough from a short corner, leaving Saxons behind going in at half time.
Saxons tried to raise their game, and good defending from Paddy Cornish and Cload kept them in the game before they managed to grab an equaliser. Busbridge deflected the ball towards the goalkeeper, whose save fell to Stainsby to finish.
Hailsham then gained a short corner for a foul outside the D by Stainsby, which also saw the player sin-binned. The short corner was despatched, leaving Saxons behind again.
Once back to the full compliment of players, the away side forced its only short corner of the game after good link-up play between the Meredith brothers. The routine went wrong, but the ball fell to the taker Stainsby, who was unlucky to hit the post.
“We deserved what we got,” admitted Busbridge. “It didn’t help losing Alex (through illness) the night before, but we just didn’t play very well.”
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