East Preston Football Club got their Southern Combination League Division 1 title quest back on track with a win at Midhurst & Easebourne on Saturday.
EP were made to do it the hard way after Hayden Hunter’s second half effort was cancelled out by Anthony Kirby on the hour.
Jared Rance then slammed home his 14th league goal of the season 13 minutes from time as East Preston sealed a crucial 2-1 win.
EP were forced to see out the final few minutes a man light after Connor Bull received a straight red following a strong challenge.
After being knocked off top spot by Saltdean United last time out, three points were vital with EP having title ambitions.
The win over Midhurst helped East Preston remain just two points behind leaders Saltdean with a game in hand.
EP boss Bob Paine was delighted with the reaction from his team and said: “I was looking for a reaction after the defeat last week and I certainly got one.
“We started quickly and created numerous chances, on another day we would have been out of sight by half-time.
“Midhurst’s goalkeeper made some great saves and certainly kept them in the match. This was a huge three points for us and it was vital we didn’t lose again after last week.
“The pitch didn’t allow us to play how we would like nut we adapted and ground out the result.”
EP were gifted the chance to go ahead after Hunter was felled in the area after 22 minutes. Jack Barnes stepped up but Billy Nash was equal to his spot-kick as the scores remained level.
East Preston went ahead seven minutes after the break with Hunter cutting in from the left and curling into the top corner.
Sloppy defending then let Midhurst back in on the hour. Kirby made the most of confusion in the backline to make it 1-1.
The match began to open up with Rance seeing a one-on-one effort well saved by Nash.
Rance finally beat Nash 13 minutes from time, though, to fire his side 2-1 ahead.
Bull was given his marching orders late on following a challenge but East Preston held on with ten-men to remain second.
EAST PRESTON: Cook; Josh Parazo, Lyne, Etherington, Jacob Parazo; Hallett, Barnes; Bull, Rance, Hunter; Huet. Subs: Purkis, Stevenson, Gilbertson, Franzen-Jones, Taylor.
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