Heath concede late to share the points on opening day
A bright but windy day welcomed Heath to the undulating hills of Eastbourne United’s Oval pitch, as we started our first season back at Step 5. A number of injuries in pre-season meant the Blues were robbed of several players and this led to manager Lovett naming himself amongst the substitutes, with the summer rebuild providing many new names for the Heath faithful to chant from the terraces.
The Blues started strongly, looking resplendent in their new yellow and black away kit, and were able to move the Eastbourne defence around at will. The strong wind blowing directly down the pitch meant that Eastbourne’s keeper was able to relieve pressure with long clearances that were aimed, with wind assistance, at the heart of the Heath defence but our backline remained resolute.
Hayden Skerry caused problems down the left flank and the Eastbourne right back looked like he was in for a torrid afternoon. From an early Heath attack, Captain Napper looked to retain the ball as it was cleared from the box, but pulled up immediately with what appeared to be a muscle injury and was replaced by JJ Minty.
Heath continued to dominate both possession and chances, with Minty twice coming close to opening the scoring from Skerry crosses. The Blues pressure clearly disorienting the Eastbourne keeper who started losing his way to the six yard box for goal kicks and on a number of occasions ended up near the corner flag before slowly making his way back towards his box to restart play. Further good interchange play between Wadhams and Skerry gave Pitcher a chance with a header but he couldn’t keep this on target.
Skerry nearly turned finisher after a long throw from JJ caused chaos in the Eastbourne box, his poked finish just wide of the far post. Another long throw from Minty saw a goal-bound shot appear to be stopped by a defender’s arm but the ref waved away the claims, despite holding his arm out and demonstrating where he thought it struck the player.
The first half ended with Eastbourne’s best chance. Alfie Jones making a good save to deny the hosts.
The second half started with Heath kicking with the wind and they soon made their dominance show with Max Blencowe heading home from a George McCarthy corner.
In truth the Blues should have been clear in the second half with chances for Pitcher, Skerry and Uwezu just not quite being finished. Heath were very close to a good performance but just couldn’t make their superiority pay. Eastbourne started to get back into the game, and their direct approach to the game was taking its toll on the Heath players. A fantastic double save from Alfie Jones preserved Heath’s lead but the game became stretched as Eastbourne tested the aerial ability of the Heath’s back line.
With two minutes to go our defences were finally breeched as an in-swinging corner was met with a punch from Alfie Jones under pressure from two Eastbourne attackers, the ball ending up in the corner of his own net.
Heath had a final roll of the dice and brought on manager Lovett in an attempt to disrupt Eastbourne’s back line. A final chance did present itself as Brittan was felled on the edge of the box, unfortunately Skerry’s well struck free kick was just wide of the far post.
The Blues will feel hard done by to only take a point and will be looking to add three more at home on Tuesday night.