Surely Neil Pierce, the Rustington manager was right when he declared at the end of the match “Lavant did themselves credit today and played really well”.
But a Rustington goal in stoppage time gave the Littlehampton side the winner with two minutes left on the clock.
Rustington were fourth from the top and Lavant fourth from the bottom at the start of this game. The away team started sharper and livelier than their opponents who also gave them too much room to play.
After a rocket in the Lavant penalty area Barnes was first to pounce and give Rustington a dream start in the first minute. Their sharpness paid off again when Searle beat Thomas to a cross to hit the roof of the net with only six minutes on the clock.
Here, Pierce’s comments came into play for it was to Lavant’s credit that their heads never went down and they gradually clawed their way back into the game.
Both managers had played an aggressive 3-5-2 system by pushing one of their advanced midfielders onto the opponents central holding midfielder. The two sides engaged like two heavyweight boxers slogging it out toe to toe.
Eventually a penetrating pass picked out Martin Ayers on the right whose one-two interchange allowed him to strike a pinpoint cross onto the head of Lavant’s Ben Thomas who headed home from six yards.
This was the life-line on 37 mins that the home-side needed.
At half-time, Lavant were instructed to close down quicker and also to cut out long ball and play through the midfield. This had an immediate effect. Rustington conceded a free kick 25 yds out and Matt Hine bent a left foot strike into the top corner which goalkeeper, Latter, could only stand and watch.
Rustington were a class side and their interpassing was a joy to watch. They obtained a penalty when Parker was adjudged to have pushed his opponent in the area but the spot-kick hit the post. Four or five times the Littlehampton side pummelled the Lavant penalty area and keeper Pullen pulled off a series of impressive saves.
The home-side pressed again and looked to be heading for a well earned draw, having pulled themselves from an early 0-2 deficit to a search now for the winner.
Then in a momentary lack of concentration Robertshaw latched onto a penetrating midfield pass to grab Rustington the winner.
Lavant drop back into the relegation zone. Rustington retain their chance of promotion and everyone learnt that “It’s not over ’til the fat lady sings!”
Team: M.Pullen, J.Strange, T.Parker, S.Blackman, M.Richardson, B.Thomas, M.Ayers, M.Hine, D.Hall, S.Loversidge, R.Pinder. Subs: N.Farrer, A.Sheppard, J.Smith.