After the drama of Saturday’s comeback win over Worthing, the Hornets concluded their preparations for the new season with a disappointing defeat at the hands of former landlords Horsham YMCA. It was a result that, to be frank, both sides deserved as the hosts harried and pressed from the start while Horsham looked laboured on the well-grassed pitch. But this was far more than a workmanlike display by YM as, prompted by former Hornets captain Joe Shelley, they put together some impressive attacking moves that gave the visiting defence a testing evening.
YM were helped, though, by some questionable defending by their Bostik League opponents that led to them taking the lead after just ten minutes when Mark Cave got the better of Scott Harris and pulled the ball back from the byline for Brad Curtis to pounce on Lewis Hyde’s scuffed clearance and put his side ahead.
The home side will have argued that they got their just desserts, having earlier seen two strong penalty claims turned down by referee Bandara; the first when Michael Hunter appeared to have brought down an attacker and the second when Alex Duncan looked to have shoved a player to the floor. Yet, just three minutes after going behind, Horsham conjured an equaliser when Scott Kirkwood followed up his own chip to slam home a weak clearance past goalkeeper Aaron Jeal for his fifth goal of the summer.
Sam Schaaf spurned a fine chance to restore the hosts’ lead when he pulled out of a challenge with Hunter as Dave Brown fired in a dangerous low cross and, from the resulting corner, Shelley rose highest to head Brown’s cross wide. A similar attack at the other end followed when Steve Metcalf did well to attack down the right and cross towards the near post where Jeal did just enough to divert Rob O’Toole’s effort wide. Darren Boswell was relieved to see Brown blaze wastefully over the crossbar after he was caught dawdling on the ball by the YM number eleven and then, as the chances continued to be shared, O’Toole blasted a fierce free-kick straight down the throat of Jeal from twenty yards.
There were a couple of causes for concern for the Hornets in the closing moments of the half, when Darren Budd was withdrawn with an arm injury and then Shelley put a close range header into the arms of Hunter.
H/T: Horsham YMCA 1 Horsham 1
It was Horsham who began the second half in the ascendancy and Boswell shot low through a sea of legs, but Jeal didn’t have to move to field the shot. The same player then picked out team-mate O’Toole at the far post and, this time, Jeal had to move smartly to prevent the ball from sneaking inside the post.
Both sides made substitutions around the hour mark and it was the Hornets’ replacements, Alfie Rogers and James Thurgar, who created the next chance only for Charlie Cooke to put in a crucial intervention to prevent a certain goal. Just a minute later the importance of Cooke’s challenge took on greater significance as YM went back into the lead. This time it was a mistake by Charlie Farmer, who was robbed of the ball by Shelley who slipped Phil Johnson through to execute the perfect finish under the diving Hunter. Johnson had been on the pitch just four minutes!
More personnel changes followed and it was one of them, the Hornets’ Ash Jones, who was next to go close when YM sub Luke Gedling’s free-kick deflected off the Horsham skipper and against his own crossbar, via the fingertips of Hunter. Yet, from the corner, Hunter missed his punch and Shelley got the goal his performance deserved, nodding easily into the empty net. A superb effort out of nothing saw a Hornets’ trialist strike the YM crossbar from long range but Brown couldn’t match the youngster’s accuracy and thus spoiled some fine approach work when he took a diagonal pass down well on his chest and cut inside, only to slice his shot wide.
Ashley Dugdale was only a whisker away from making it four when Johnson’s whipped free-kick just eluded his team-mate’s outstretched boot before Metcalf rounded off the night with a well-worked goal, receiving a wall pass from Rogers and taking the ball round substitute ‘keeper Mark Fox before stroking the ball into the back of the net.
The Hornets now have eleven days to get this performance out of their minds before kicking off the new Bostik League season at Molesey while, on this display, few would bet against YM putting paid to Three Bridges’ interest in the FA Cup when the two sides meet at Goring’s Mead on Saturday.
Reporter: Mark Wells
Match photos can be seen here, courtesy of John Lines