I decided to travel down alone, for my first ever visit to the Hanbury Stadium, Haywards Heath, on a beautifully warm Easter bank holiday weekend, for this Isthmian League South East Division tie.
The Hanbury Stadium was opened, by Sir Stanley Rous, in 1952, for the inaugural match against local rivals Horsham. This season the average attendance coming into the game has been 367, which is the seventh highest in the league.
The Hanbury Stadium boasts a big grandstand and a decent clubhouse and bar. The pitch is grass and in very good condition. There was a decent crowd of 319 watching today, which was good, given the warm weather and the stadium’s proximity to the seaside!!
Corinthian FC have had a great first season, since their promotion upto this league, from the Southern Counties East Football League. Manager, Michael Golding, managed to keep much of their promotion winning squad and his team have shown their ability to be resilient, and to be adaptable to the higher expectations required at this level, coming into the game in a credible eighth place.
Haywards Heath came into the match with a play off place within their grasp, as they sat in fourth place, with 65 points. This made today’s game crucial for the home side, as a slip up could open a door for Ramsgate to gain ground on the play off positions, with just three games left to play. Manager Martin Dynan was clear in his programme notes that this was still “a quest for promotion.”
Corinthian FC’s top scorers, this season, were Oscar Housego and Jack Mahoney, both with nine goals. Haywards Heath Town’s top scorers, coming into the fixture, were Jerson Dos Santos with nine goals and three players, Tom Cadman, Davigildo Cravid and Sam Remfry, all with six goals.
The game started with both sides locked in a stalemate. Corinthian looked strong on the break, targeting their big number 9, Emmanuel Oloyede and their quick number 10, Joshua Stirman. Haywards Heath keeper, Billy Collings, kept hitting the ball long and much of their attack was focused aerially through their forward line, but was dealt with easily by the Corinthian back line.
Then, in the 26th minute, Haywards Heath were awarded a penalty, after a late challenge in the box. Frustratingly, from the spot kick, the ball was struck, wastefully, against the bar, by Davigildo Cravid.
Neither side created a clear cut chance in the remainder of the first half, so at the break, the teams went in, with the score still goalless.
The second half opened with Corinthian FC making most of the play. Then, in the 70th minute Haywards Heath came back to life, with the Corinthian keeper, Aiden Prall making a great save from Hayward Heath’s Cravid, when through on goal. The favour was immediately returned at the other end, when an equivalently great save was made, by the Haywards Heath keeper, Collings, to deny a certain goal from a point blank header, by Corinthian’s Oloyede.
There was time before the end for Emmanuel Oloyede to have two good chances to seal the match for the away team. However at the final whistle the score remained 0-0.
The point secured today, should keep Haywards Heath’s play off chances a formality, but they will need to improve on this performance to win through the play-offs to secure their promotion to the Isthmian Premier League, in the coming weeks.