Horsham returned to winning ways and kept a clean sheet for the first time since January with a comfortable 3-0 win against lowly Ashford United at Culver Road this evening. The Hornets had only won once in their previous five fixtures ahead of the contest against The Nuts and Bolts, but felt confident of getting back on track against the side they thrashed 6-0 during the early stages of the season when Dom Di Paola’s side dumped them out of the FA Cup in September.
Horsham have made a habit of struggling to take points of sides in the lower part of the division this season, and they appeared to make hard work of breaking down their guests during the initial stages of the game, yet Ashford midfielder Siao Blackwood handed The Hornets the initiative to claim all three points a minute before half-time when his clumsy challenge on Ryan Worrall inside the box gave Horsham advantage as George Landais converted from the spot, while Lee-Wharton’s flap at Curtis Gayler’s corner put the game beyond them with Henry Watson wrapping things up ten minutes from time.
Di Paola made one change to the starting line up that lost 1-4 on Saturday to Ramsgate, as the injured Steve Metcalf made way for Curtis Gayler as the Hornets boss opted to continue with his experimental side as the season draws to a close.
He saw his team start brightly, with Ryan Worrell immediately getting in on the action in the fourth minute, whipping in a dangerous pacy low cross that was beaten away by visiting goalkeeper Aaron Lee-Wharton. The subsequent corner saw Alfie Rogers heading over.
Yet United had the best chance to take an early lead when Clark Woodcock spotted Dean Grant on the edge of the box with a tidy pass, and the striker turned before hitting a low shot at goal that appeared to be squirming its way towards the bottom corner, however Josh Pelling showed great agility as he dived low down to push the ball out for corner.
Ashford’s fragilities were evident however on ten minutes when a cheap pass was intercepted by Horsham high into their own half, and as the ball was quickly directed to Worrall, he saw another fine cross narrowly headed wide by Joe Shelley.
Worrall continued to find himself in the thick of things as he orchestrated another attack, once more getting wide and sending another dangerous ball across the face of goal, it came to an unmarked Alfie Rogers who took a touch to compose himself yet found himself dispossessed after his hesitation to shoot first time allowed Ashford to send the behind Lee-Wharton’s goal.
The visitors however reminded Horsham they were still a threat on thirty-nine minutes when Horsham failed to clear their lines and a messy scramble in the box resulted in Jahmal Howlett poking a decent effort through a crowd of players, but Pelling was relieved to see his shot sneak wide of his post.
Horsham were unfortunate not to take the lead shortly after when Landais tricked his way into the box as he went past his marker, but Lee-Wharton’s double save denied him, and while the Horsham forward was able to regain possession and feed Alfie Rogers, the teenager once more found his luck wanting in front of goal, thanks to some fantastic last-ditch defending by Dave Cook, sliding in to shut him out.
Having defended so bravely moments before, a rash challenge from Siao Blackwood undid all the hard work as his side had looked set to make it to half time with the scores level, yet a rush of blood to the head from the midfielder gave referee Marc Meeten little choice other than to point to the spot as he came in from behind on Worrall and played the man. It was left to Landais to break the deadlock with his tenth goal of the season, smashing his penalty into the roof of the net as he sent Lee-Wharton the wrong way.
Having taken the lead, Horsham nearly allowed Ashford back into the game a minute later, when they managed to switch off giving Woodcock sight of goal with a powerful arrowed shot that required an acrobatic diving save from Pelling.
H/T: Horsham 1 Ashford United 0
Horsham began the second half brightly as they looked to quickly put the game to bed with a close effort from Joe Shelley nodded over, while Worrall’s interception as he cut out Blackwood’s lazy pass almost gave him the chance to double Horsham’s lead, yet he couldn’t find the finish, firing over from the edge of the box as the United man put him under pressure and looked to atone for his earlier mistake.
Ashford found themselves out of their own half soon after, and almost drew level through a Horsham error as Gayler’s miscue at the back post gave Jordan Palmer a wisp to capitalise, but his shot was overcooked and skied into the air.
Yet a second mistake from the visitors cost them dear in the sixty-fourth minute and put the game beyond them when Gayler’s corner was sent over and pushed into his own net by Lee-Wharton.
The game good as won, Horsham wrapped things up with eleven minutes remaining when a Horsham freekick was pumped long into the six-yard box and some poor defending from Ashford left Henry Watson unmarked at the far post to send his stooping header across the face of Lee-Wharton’s goal who could only dive in vain as the full-back opened his Horsham account.
Victory means Horsham remain in thirteenth place and have now opened up a five point gap between ourselves and fourteenth placed Sittingbourne. Horsham conclude the last of our home triple header on Saturday when we entertain Walton Casuals on Easter Saturday, before we look forward to a trip to our Sussex rivals and league leaders Lewes on Easter Monday.
Reporter: Matt Dale