Newhaven dropped league points away from home for the first time since the opening day of the season, as they were beaten 2-1 by a resilient Broadbridge Heath on Saturday afternoon. The Dockers had won seven games in a row on the road – since the 2-2 draw at Barnham – but came unstuck at a wet Broadbridge Leisure Centre.
Michael Wood fired the hosts in to the lead, after half an hour, and they held on for a half-time advantage. It got worse for Newhaven in the second half when Robert Godfrey’s perfectly placed shot doubled the deficit. Lee Robinson pulled one back with 25 minutes to play and both teams missed clear-cut chances late in the game.
Newhaven switched back to their more familiar 4-5-1 formation. The only change to the starting line-up saw Gary Holmes replace Luke Duchossoy, who was ill. Holmes slotted in on the left, with Robinson back out on the right and Tyler Goatcher leading the line. Daniel Murray moved to left back, after the previous weeks stint at centre half. Ryan Walton, Dave Altendorff, Jake Buss and Luke Vidler made up the substitutes.
It was a familiar story for Newhaven – lots of possession but no real cutting edge. Robinson was getting in to decent crossing positions down the right, but his final ball lacked quality. Goatcher was almost gifted a goal when a stray pass from a defender fell to his feet, but his firm drive flew over the goal.
As the half went on Heath began to get more in to the game. Most attempts on goal were from long range and Graham Leach was rarely troubled. That was until the half hour mark when Heath took the lead. A corner was floated in to the box and Leach, under pressure from a home player, punched the ball away. It fell on the edge of the area, where Wood was rushing in, and he smashed his shot between the post and defender on the line.
For the second week in a row Newhaven found themselves behind despite the majority of possession. A free-kick in to the Heath box caused panic but the home defence stood strong and held on for a 1-0 half-time lead.
Newhaven knew they needed to keep pressing if they were to get the break through against a Heath defence that, before the game, had the joint-third best defensive record in the division. They were, however, to suffer a second blow just ten minutes in to the half. Robinson’s heavy touch brought to an end a Newhaven attack and Heath broke forward. The ball was played to Godfrey who fired a right-footed shot from 20 yards, that gave Leach no chance, and found the bottom left hand corner of the goal.
The visitors had their work cut out and found themselves in an unprecedented position. It was the first time this season they had fallen two goals behind in a league or cup game in Sussex. Altendorff replaced Holmes as Newhaven switched to a 4-4-2. And the change in formation paid dividends as Robinson pulled a goal back. Goatcher received the ball just past the half-way line and played it in to Robinson. Robinson pushed forward and played a long one-two with Mark Probert before tucking away the finish with his left foot.
Walton was introduced as Newhaven threw bodies forward in search of an equaliser. And they were nearly caught out when Heath streamed forward but a last ditch clearance from Murray saved a certain Jamal Sultan goal.
Robinson saw a shot drift just wide and then had a guilt edge chance to snatch an equaliser late on. Kerry Mayo played him through and, after rounding John McBride, he had just the goal to aim at, albeit from a tight angle. But, right at the crucial moment, he slipped on the boggy pitch and sent his shot wide.
It proved to be the last real chance for Newhaven as they succumbed to their first away defeat and in doing so dropped back down to third in Division Three. It is still tight at the top of the league and The Dockers are just three points from the summit with a game in hand on leaders Pease Pottage, who lost at Ferring.
This Saturday (25th February) sees Newhaven in Intermediate Cup Semi-Final action as they host Eastbourne Borough Reserves at Fort Road.
Jordan Cole (Ryan Walton)
Barry Knight (c)
Gary Holmes (Dave Altendorff)