Haywards Heath Town beat Horsham YM in the Sussex Senior Cup thanks to Jordan Clarke hat-trick

This was an entertaining game, played at a surprisingly fast pace on a pitch left saturated by recent prolonged rain, with Haywards Heath from the higher Isthmian League South East Division exerting their authority and finishing comfortable winners over Horsham YMCA’s less experienced side, courtesy of a Jordan Clarke hat trick.

Starved of football, and hovering just above the relegation zone, Heath made the early running with a Kieron Rowe breakthrough, intercepted by Kyle Sim. But, YM, with younger players drafted in amid concentration on league survival, soon earned a corner after Will Read had supplied Jack Ryder, only for the ball to be palmed onto the roof of the net by impressive visiting keeper Sam Freeman.

YM’s Reece Batchelor hobbled off to be replaced, but the hosts had their second corner when Freeman pushed off Read’s strike, before the centre forward tested the keeper again. Heath responded with a corner of their own, until an uncleared goalmouth melee allowed Clarke to put Heath in front in the 20th minute. YM skipper Charlie Cooke then had to be at his best to get the ball away, ahead of speedy Samuel Ogunseye firing in, with the subsequent corner headed over. But, Heath were not to be denied, with Anfi-war Tran-West driving the ball into the bottom right for Heath’s second.

Jordan Clarke

Five minutes later things got worse for YM when Clarke put in a ball from the right. Yet, although three goals down, YM pressed forward and, following a corner, nearly benefited from an own goal, but the ball was scrambled away by Nico Cotton. YM, though, did score just before the break, when Charlie Maguire found himself in open space and unleashed a long range strike for the goal of the match.

Leading 3-1 on resumption, Heath’s Michael Wilson’s punt was more worthy of a Twickenham conversion, with a visitors’ corner following, before YM’s Adrian Todd burst through on the break, only to pass rather than shoot. Then, a jinking Read solo run culminated in him firing wide, when, with ample time left, a 2-3 scoreline would have put YM back in contention. Tran-West then dominated the action, first with a threatening cross, after which he was dispossessed by Kyle Sim, before coming back to fire extremely wide. But, with the YM defence stretched, the forward proved his point when he laid off for Clarke to put the icing on the cake for Heath with just three minutes of normal time remaining.

A late YM corner came and went, but the outcome had long since been decided, with Heath Manager Shaun Saunders telling us: “After so little football we are just pleased to come here and get a result ! The pitch was heavy, but we took our chances and the win will give us a much-needed boost.”

YM were by no means disgraced, Assistant Manager Ryan King saying: “We played some of our best football of the season, putting us in good stead for our demanding visit to Eastbourne Town on Saturday. It was good to see us performing well against higher opposition, with their keeper needing to pull off some top quality saves.”