EAST Preston Football Club moved 13 points clear at the top of the County League with a 3-1 win over Worthing United on Wednesday evening.
Top played bottom in a game that was switched to the Lashmar as a result of United being unable to fix their floodlights, owing to the weather.
EP had the ball in the back of the net on six minutes as Mike Huckett’s cross found Liam Baitup at the back post, but the striker’s powerful header was ruled out for offside.
Right-back Adam Hunt was the first to legitimately test debutant Tom Bryant in the United net as his cross required tipping over after 16 minutes. EP skipper Joe Shelley saw a free header sail over the bar on 29 minutes before another effort was ruled out after Matt Axell’s mazy run was tapped home by the once again offside Baitup four minutes later.
The breakthrough came in the 37th minute when Hunt’s cross-shot free kick found Bryant’s bottom corner.
The second period began with a bang as Shelley unleashed a powerful drive from 30 yards that found the back of the net, despite Bryant’s despairing dive in the 47th minute, and the influential midfielder made it three five minutes later with a pinpoint volley after a lay-off from the offside Hunt.
Mavericks pulled one back in the 59th minute after Marc Pullan got caught in two minds, opting to loop a header over 16-year-old Rui Buckland in the EP net, who otherwise had a sound debut.
EP did have the ball in the United net a further two times via the boots of Darren Boswell and Tom Levitt, the latter getting injured in the process, but both were ruled out for offside.
United head coach John Foley said: “I’m really proud of the boys. Had we been playing any other side in the league, we’d have got something out of it. I didn’t feel that the midfield pulled their weight in the first half but were much better in the second and, unfortunately, we were undone by some great finishing.”
EP assistant manager Ian Browne said: “It wasn’t a great game but we deserved the win and the points. It should probably have been more comfortable than it was, but we’ve got to be happy after such a long period of time without a game.”