So here we are, a season’s long campaign, hinging on two potential wins in which the winners from the play-offs will be playing Bostik League Premier Division football in time for the 2019/20 season. It’s fair to say for Horsham supporters, that whatever happens it has been a monumental season in which the club can be proud of, but in order to make the final, the small matter of Haywards Heath Town stand in our way.
It doesn’t get too much bigger than a Sussex derby, and thus it’s a game that should dispel the allure of watching Game of Thrones on TV, as the two sides battle it out for Friday’s showpiece event in which the winners will take on either Ashford United or Hastings United. An event of far greater importance than between the Night King vs Winterfell.
With Horsham not in action on Saturday due to our original game with the new defunct Thamesmead being cancelled, Horsham will feel they are the more rested of the two sides, yet despite Dom Di Paola bringing his side together to train on the weekend, there was a surprise with Haywards Heath’s line up in their game against Ashford United as former Hornets striker Trevor McCredie donned the gloves to start in goal with Heath unable to name a recognised goalkeeper for the match, while they also named a weakened squad possibly knowing that whatever the result, their top five finish was secure. The Kent side duly punished our Sussex neighbours, thrashing them 5-0 at The Homelands, however it was a result that could have had unforeseen circumstances for last seasons Southern Combination Premier Division Champions, ruling them ineligible for promotion due to not having a high enough points per game total this season, should they win the play-offs.
Horsham’s two league games against Town were forgettable in a memorable campaign as Town recorded a league double over The Hornets. Of the 240 spectators that attended the first such game at Culver Road, none of them will forget it in a hurry. With Town making their debut at Step 4, our Sussex rivals had contrived to lose their opening three league fixtures and faced a Horsham side who raced into a 3-0 lead within sixteen minutes. Incredibly, Haywards Heath hit back to make it 3-3, and despite Chris Smith putting Horsham back in front with little over twenty minutes to go, Heath scored two more to record an amazing 4-5 win with an injury time stunner from Lewis Finney.
Horsham suffered more misery at the hands of our opponents on Monday night, when in the reverse fixture, referee John Pike dismissed Joe Shelley for two bookable offences and paved the way for Heath to secure a 2-0 win thanks, in part, to a dubious penalty that Callum Saunders converted as Horsham suffered a rare bad day at the office just before the Christmas break.
Manager Dom Di Paola meanwhile has insisted that his side have already achieved great things this season regardless of what happens in the play-offs. The boss revealed “at the start of the season, no one expected us to finish this high up the table. Considering our situation – playing away from the town, our budget compared to some of the teams we’ve been up against – what we’ve done is unbelievable!” The gaffer expressed he was looking forward to the match but was eager to stress the importance of his side enjoying the occasion, explaining “we’ve had some really memorable games this season, and we showed what we can do in the cup runs, the important thing is the lads will go out and enjoy themselves and they want to give a good account of themselves, but whatever happens we can be really proud of what we’ve achieved this season”
Supporters are advised that parking at Culver Road will be limited for this fixture and are therefore advised, not to park at the ground. A public car park is available at nearby North Farm Road.
Kick off is at 7.30pm. In the event of a tie, extra time and penalties may be required if necessary. The club can confirm this fixture is ALL PAY. Fees will be Adults £9, Over 60’s or Students or Under 18s £5, Under 16s £1.
With such a big game, the club would like to urge as many supporters as possible to attend, however, as ever, the club will be keeping fans updated through our various social media channels for those unable to make it.