It was announced pre kick off that Burgess Hill club legend, ‘Super’ Pat Harding would be leaving us at the end of the season. Pat has been here for 11 seasons and made in excess of 450 games for the club scoring 131 goals. This announcement set the tone for what would become an emotional day for Pat and the club as he aimed to leave Paradise with one final home W.
Burgess Hill, missing a whole host of players for this Easter Monday West Sussex Derby, started the brighter team and created the opening chance. The lively Charlie Kelly slipped in Tom Chalaye down the left hand side, Tom cut back onto his right and looked to curl one into the far corner, but Kieran Magee was equal to it, pushing the ball away with the rebound just missing Max Miller. Chichester responded to this early warning by creating a very good chance of their own. A long ball landed at the feet of Ethan Pritchard, he did brilliantly to turn Harry Pollard inside out but lacked any sort of composure with his finish, smashing the ball high over Will Huffers crossbar. Charlie Kelly was causing Chichester all sorts of problems attacking the Ashley Carr Terrace. Some gorgeous one touch football between Chalaye, Max Miller and Kelly saw the latter breeze past Ben Pashley and bear down on goal but he rather got caught in two minds over wether to shoot or square it to Miller and an unfortunate Leylands bobble prevented CK from doing either. The Hillians were rather knocking on the proverbial door somewhat, Lewis Finney whipped a delightful cross into the box and Josh Spinks up from the back managed to get free but his downward header was well saved by Magee. Guess what folks? Another Hillians chance. Pat Harding played a ‘Max Miller will run onto this’ pass and indeed, Max did. He out strengthed Rob Hutchings and chipped a cross into the box which Charlie Kelly came onto. It sat up beautifully for him to shoot first time but he dragged his effort well past the post in what was a very scoreable opportunity. The Alliance crammed into the terrace were certainly seeing plenty of action down their end. Elliot Cross making his first Hillians start since August had the next chance, Chi failed to clear a cross and funnily enough it fell to Cross but he leant back and sliced his half volley harmlessly over Kieron Magee’s goal. It took 42 first half minutes but the Hillians did eventually break the deadlock. Josh Spinks intercepted a forward ball and strode forward confidently, what came next was nothing Josh Spinks like at all, he whipped a Beckham esque cross right onto the head of Max Miller who flicked his header beautifully into the bottom corner to send the More Than Tyres into raptures.
Burgess Hill we’re much the better team for the opening 45 and Chichester probably weren’t too pleased with their showing. This is undoubtedly why they started the second half positively. A lovely passing move between Josh Clack, Ben Mendoza and Ethan Pritchard saw the latter stride towards goal, he got to the edge of the box and smashed one, Will Huffer did very well to get down low and tip it behind for a corner. This neat move seemed to the buoy the visitors and they were quickly threatening again. Stan Bridgman fizzed a pass into the feet of fullback Ryan Davidson, his first touch took him away from Kelly but his left footed shot was no trouble this time for Huffer. It will come to no surprise based on this second half that Chichester did get a deserved equaliser. A free kick was quickly taken long and it caught Leon Moore napping, Ethan Pritchard ran at Moore and got inside him far too easily, he still had little of the goal to aim but somehow, his shot avoided 3 Burgess Hill players and snuck inside Huffers near post to get the City level. All that hard work to get themselves level and it only lasted 2 minutes. Charlie Kelly is a part time footballer and a part time Postman, he whipped a cracking free kick right onto the head of Lewis Finney who darted to the near post and flicked a gorgeous header into the net to restore the Hillians advantage. The 2 standout performers offensively for Burgess Hill, Max Miller and Charlie Kelly almost combined for a match clinching third. Tom Chalaye set Miller away down the right and there’s absolutely no catching him. He beat his man (again) and sent a teasing cross plum for Kelly but it was a fraction too high and he could only send it crashing over the bar. More difficult than it looked, I reckon. How do you like your chances? Scrambled? That best describes this one for the Hill. Charlie Kelly again clipped a great cross into the danger zone, nobody made significant contact but Chi failed to clear it, the ball fell to Pat Harding and he must’ve had 3 shots all which were very well blocked. The ball eventually fell to Lewis Finney who hit a piledriver which was whiskers away from finding the top bins. This second half was highly entertaining and very end to end and back came Chichester. Emmett Dunn almost equalised with a wonderstrike but his effort crashed off the inside of the post, along the line and fortunately for Hill, not over the line! The Hillians luck was soon to run out, though. Alex Weinberger (excellent name sir) flashed a cross across the box which fell to Ex Haywards man Josh Clack. He in turn laid it off for Ben Mendoza and he hit it as clean as a whistle, right over Huffer and into the roof of the net to grab Chichester, probably, a deserved point in the end in a very good game of Isthmian league football.
With the Hills squad being as thin as it was, a point against a very decent Chichester outfit is a positive one. We had chances to kill the game off and will be disappointed to let a lead slip twice but the day belonged to Pat Harding who at FT received a cacophony of noise from the 503 packed into Paradise to simply say; Thank You.
Match sponsors, Mark Craigs and Richard Copeland awarded Pat Harding with the Man Of The Match Award. Very fitting indeed.
Next up, and for the final time this 21/22 season, we are travelling to Three Bridges for the final game of the season!