LITTLEHAMPTON Football Club remained top of the County League on Saturday with a 1-0 victory over fellow high-flyers Pagham.
A header from Josh Bates 15 minutes from time gave Golds the victory and kept them two points ahead of local rivals East Preston, who won 4-1 at Selsey in Sammy Donnelly’s first game in charge.
Golds had suffered back-to-back defeats in their previous two games but manager Mark Bennett was delighted with the victory on Saturday.
He said: “It was really pleasing to pick up a win against a good Pagham side.
“We have had around eight players out over the past few weeks and four of those are some of our stronger players, so it has been difficult.
“But that is not an excuse and we were hoping to win in this one after some indifferent results.
“We have struggled a little bit over the last few weeks and I felt that if we had not managed to win this one, then the confidence may have gone from the squad. But, fortunately, we got the goal 15 minutes from time and then kept a clean sheet, which is always good.
“We had a couple of efforts cleared off the line in the match and I thought it might not be our day but we got a much-needed victory in the end.
“The victory keeps us at the top of the table but East Preston have two games in hand and there is still a long way to go in the season.
“But I feel this was a vital win for us and one that can now give us some confidence going into the upcoming games that we have.”
Pagham started well and could have gone ahead on three minutes but Josh Clack blazed his shot well over from close range.
Golds’ Lee Garnham could have put his side ahead on 19 minutes, but his turn and shot went just wide of the goal.
Littlehampton should have gone ahead just three minutes later when Bates headed a Dan Kempson corner back across goal but Scott Packer failed to find the target from just five yards out.
George Landais almost put the hosts ahead on 28 minutes when he crashed a right-footed effort goalwards, only to see it cleared off the line by Rob Brown.
Littlehampton were once again denied by a goal-line clearance when keeper Jon Hendrick’s long kick found Michael Hendrick, who chipped Pagham goalkeeper James Binfield, but his shot was cleared by Andy Brown.
Pagham were reduced to ten men on 69 minutes when Rob Brown was dismissed for a foul on Landais, when Golds’ striker looked to race through on goal.
Littlehampton took the lead when Bates headed home a Kempson corner and they held on for their first win in three matches.
Golds travel to third-from-bottom Crawley Down Gatwick in the league on Saturday.
LITTLEHAMPTON: J.Hendrick; Wiggans, Bingham, Bates, McKay; Kempson, Swain, Packer, M.Hendrick; Garnham, Landais. Subs: Gray (Garnham), Kew (Bingham), Simmonds. Frangou, O’Callaghan.