A LATE penalty from Danny Leach sealed all three points for Hailsham Town against a spirited Midhurst & Easebourne on Saturday.
The visitors belied their third from bottom league status with a battling performance – but it was Hailsham who struck first, with a goal on 10 minutes from the boot of Steve Dallaway, the former Eastbourne Town striker quickest to react to a wickedly curling Craig Ottley free kick to net at the near post.
At the other end, young Ollie Nicholls made a smart first half stop from close range, beofre Hailsham could have doubled their tally on the half hour when a handball inside the box led to the first Stringers penalty of the afternoon, which Leach took, only to see his effort turned wide of the post by a diving keeper.
After the interval Hailsham pressed but were unable to make the breakthrough, and, after a couple of half chances, the visitors gained reward for their industry in the middle of the park, with a free kick from Oliver Pearce that just managed to slip through the hands of Nicholls.
After seing their lead cancelled out, Town piled forward, and eventually two minutes from time, a clumsy challenge on Leach saw the second penalty of the afternoon – this time despatched by the striker, who now moves above East Preston’s George Gaskin to top the Division Two goalscorers chart.
Whilst it may not have been the best performance of the season by a Hailsham side missing several regulars in Russ Tanner, Ben Billings, Shane Saunders, Ashley Jarvis, Jamie Salvidge and Alex Atrill, the win was hard earned and keeps the Stringers firmly in the box seat for second place in the league.
And even the title is still a (slim) possibility, should runaway leaders East Preston slip up as the season draws to a close.
Hailsham are back at the Beaconsfield tomorrow (Saturday) with sixth-placed Southwick the visitors, while the Reserves have an important trip to Sidley on Monday evening, a side just one place above them in the Reserve Premier.
TOWN: Nicholls, Dean Stevens, Earley, Riddiford, Lewis, Richardson, Dallaway, Alexander, Leach, Cavalier, Ottley. Subs (all used): Jacob Stevens, Norman, Walder.