Hailsham Town hotshot Shaun Saunders fired his team to a 1-0 win on Tuesday night to all but guarantee the Sussex side’s survival at the top level of county football.
In a scrappy encounter at the Beaconsfield, Saunders’ second-half strike proved the difference between the two sides and allowed the Stringers to move 11 points clear of the drop zone with only five games to go.
Boss Kenny McCreadie was satisfied with the win in a game where his side never got out of second gear.
He said: “We’ve grinded out the win tonight which is a good sign. However, our performance could certainly have been a lot better, particularly in the first half.
“Looking ahead, we’ve got five home games left between now and the end of the year. When we get some of our senior players back, players like Mark Goodwin and Simon Catt who will really strengthen us, then I believe we can beat anyone in this division.”
With a striker as lethal as Saunders in the ranks, this bold statement may not be misplaced. With 23 goals to his name already despite being unavailable for a large part of the season, McCreadie was quick to acknowledge the huge impact his tall centre-forward has had.
“He’s a goal-scorer, pure and simple. He may miss the odd chance here and there but his record speaks for itself. Plus he works tremendously hard and holds the ball up as well as scoring goals.
“While Shaun may get the headlines, I thought Paul Richardson was outstanding at centre half. He reads the game so well, he directs things from the back and you can see that he’s played at a higher level of football. Alongside him, Steve Early was fantastic as well, and those two boys gave us the platform to win the game.”
Hailsham’s centre backs really were exceptional all night, restricting a lively Wick front pair to just one clear chance all evening, where George Gaskin broke through only to see his shot saved by ‘keeper Russell Tanner.
The deadlock was finally broken after 75 minutes, with Ashley Jarvis the inspiration behind the goal. He brilliantly dispossessed Wick substitute Michael Asare before releasing Saunders through on goal.
Saunders and fellow striker Jamie Salvidge almost wasted the chance, as they were held up by brave Wick defending before Saunders finally wriggled free and drilled the ball low into the net.
Hailsham: Tanner 8, Williams 6, Ottley 6, Early 8, Richardson (c) 8, French 6, T Jarvis 7, Stevens 6 (Skan, 82), A Jarvis 8, J Salvidge 6, S Saunders 8. Subs not used: Norman, Chatfield.
MoM: Paul Richardson: calm and assured throughout. Ref: James Harding. Att: 54.