OMAR BUGIEL kept Worthing Football Club’s slim play-off hopes alive with a injury-time winner at champions Burgess Hill on Monday.
Rebels led by two goals at the break in the Ryman League South Division contest through strikes from Curtis Gayler and Lloyd Dawes.
However, the Hillians, who had been crowned champions on Saturday, fought back and Pat Harding and Lee Harding netted in the final ten minutes to make it 2-2. But Bugiel then popped up late on to give the visitors a valuable victory.
Rebels remain eight points behind fifth-placed Whyteleafe, who won for the seventh successive league match, with just three games to play. Worthing are at Tooting on Saturday, while Whyteleafe host Burgess Hill, before Rebels entertain Whyteleafe the following week.
Monday’s defeat was just the second time Burgess Hill have lost in the league this season and Worthing boss Adam Hinshelwood was delighted with his side’s victory.
He said: “Anyone that has watched us play this season will know that is us all over.
“It was probably a game that we should have won 3-0 and got home comfortably.
“But when they got it back to 2-2, I was thinking have we got the resilience to get back into it and I’m delighted that we could do that.
“I think, in the first half, they were treating it a little like a pre-season match after sealing the title last time out.
“But the way they played in the second half just showed the quality that they have.
“I think the first goal for them was absolutely fantastic and that gave them a lifeline. In the last few games, we have looked a lot more solid at the back and Jack Cook has been a great help since coming in.
“We know it’s going to be a tough task to make the play-offs after dropping some silly points this year. But all we can do is just win all of our remaining matches and see where that takes us.”
The hosts almost took a sixth-minute lead when Joe Keehan headed Callum Saunders’ corner against the bar. The game then sprang into life in the final 15 minutes of the half. Burgess Hill almost went ahead but Jack Fagan pulled off a fine stop to tip Saunders’ volley over the bar.
Rebels then responded well and took the lead on 31 minutes. Dawes’ cross found Gayler and he exquisitely volleyed into the top corner.
It was 2-0 a minute before the break when Bugiel played in Dawes and the wide man coolly slotted past Josh James in the home side’s goal.
Worthing should have made sure of all three points 15 minutes after the interval as Will Berry fed Bugiel, who crossed for Gayler but his glancing header went just wide of the goal.
The home side continued to search for a lifeline and they nearly got one on 77 minutes as Keehan struck a crisp left-footed volley towards goal, only to see it tipped over the bar by Fagan.
Burgess Hill did manage to bag a goal ten minutes from time, though, when Scott Kirkwood’s cross was side-footed home by Pat Harding.
The Ryman League South Division champions got themselves level with just three minutes left when confusion in the Rebels backline allowed Lee Harding in behind and he looped a header over Fagan.
Worthing were not to be denied all three points, though, and Bugiel broke clear three minutes into stoppage-time and crashed a left-footed strike into the top corner.
WORTHING: Fagan; Hendon, Berry, Hurley, Cook, Sparks; Gayler, O’Neill, Dawes; Bugiel, Lawley. Subs: Pope, Rance, Quirke, Smith, Isaacs.