The Hornets suffered a third consecutive league defeat, and fourth loss in five matches, as Cray Wanderers piled on more misery on Dom Di Paola’s injury riddled side.
Having secured a win in mid-week against Bostik Premier side Burgess Hill Town in the League Cup, Di Paola would have hoped the victory would have provided the springboard to get our stuttering league form back on track, yet the hosts began the game sloppily, conceding in the fifth minute, while Cray Wanderers all but ended the contest with two more goals within the next half an hour and despite an improved showing during the second half from Horsham, the damage done by the away side was irreparable as The Hornets will be left to rue another Jekyll and Hyde performance.
Di Paola made two changes to the side that beat The Hillians on Wednesday, with Darren Budd and Jack Newhouse unavailable, in came former Hornet turned Lewes loanee George Landais while Toby House was restored to the starting line-up. With injuries taking their toll, Di Paola also included Josh Street and Will Robinson, signed earlier in the week on loan from Eastbourne Borough and Lewes respectively.
The two sides had barely had time to settle into the contest, when after just five minutes, the guests went in front after Horsham gave away a cheap freekick thirty yards out. With the ball swung into the box, Marcus Evans’ flicked header back towards goal appeared straightforward enough for goalkeeper Josh James to handle, yet the Horsham shot-stopper misjudged the flight of the ball, and allowed it to drop down behind him and into the net. From a Horsham perspective, it was an entirely avoidable goal to concede, yet there was no way back for The Hornets who deflated thereafter.
Horsham did however attempt to hit back minutes later, but an ambitious effort from Rob O’Toole who tried to lob Nick Blue off his line from thirty yards, never looked like troubling The Wands ‘keeper as his defenders crowded the Horsham hitman out.
A strong run from House started with the young forward collecting the ball inside his own half and carrying it out into the opposing third, but his pass into the box was well read, and cut out as Horsham struggled to respond.
Having attempted to bring the game to the visitors, Wanderers quickly doubled their lead on sixteen minutes. As Horsham failed to pick up on the runner, Cray strung the ball through for Michael Power to chase, and as the striker burst into the box and looked to round past James, the Hornets ‘keeper succeeding in only bringing him down. James would then earn himself a yellow card for his trouble before Power dusted himself down to confidently slot his penalty away.
Cray would argue they should have had a third goal three minutes later, as Horsham threatened to implode yet the hosts were thankful for the woodwork and the officials who deemed that the ball did not cross the line, as a fierce shot crashed off the underside of the bar, and bounced back down on the line. Cray supporters argued that the net had bulged but Mr. John Pike and his assistant were well placed and did not agree, as they allowed play to continue.
Yet Cray would not be denied a third goal, as just after the half hour mark, The Wands put the game out of sight. Marcus Evans’ towering header was nodded towards goal as he rose up to head in from a corner, but there was some question whether it was his goal, with Michael Power claiming he got the final touch as the ball went in.
Regardless of who the dubious goals panel will ultimately award the goal to, it was game over as a contest for Horsham, as Cray threatened one more time before the interval. With House dispossessed inside his own half, The Wands quickly worked the ball out to Aaron Rhule, who fizzed in a dangerous rising cross-come-shot that smacked against the outside of the post.
The hosts were unlucky not to go in at the break having reduced the arrears with a goal when House did well to keep a loose ball alive at the by-line, where he was allowed time and space to deliver a cross at the back post, where both Rob O’Toole and Adam Hunt throw themselves at it with the ball just proving beyond their reach.
H/T: Horsham 0 Cray Wanderers 3
After a half time pep talk from coach Adam Westwood, Horsham emerged more fired up and determined to put in a more spirited display for the next forty-five minutes. With Cray themselves taking their foot off the gas, Horsham suddenly found themselves able to exploit more space and time and they should have done better when Adam Hunt was played in high up in the centre of the field, but with distance to cover, he tried his luck from far out but saw his effort flying well over.
Horsham substitute Josh Street tried to inject some pace into the game for his new side, when he sidestepped his marker and attempted to release O’Toole, but with the ball slightly ahead of him, Nick Blue took no chances, swooping in to smother the danger.
Horsham were indeed proving the better side of the second half, but continued to have nothing to show for their endeavours, yet they still struggled to fashion a shot on target as a flicked-on header fell backwards towards Charlie Farmer, but the defender was taken by surprise and only able to head back across the face of goal as the guests cleared.
In spite of their much improved second half showing, The Hornets had to wait until the eighty-fifth minute for their first shot on target as House saw his stinging low drive pushed out by Nick Blue.
Blue would guarantee a clean sheet for his side a minute later when he produced a superb save to deny George Landais who found himself in beyond the Cray defence, but his powerful close-range effort was beaten away as Cray inflicted another Saturday afternoon of disappointment for Horsham supporters.
Reporter: Matt Dale