A late defensive slip cost Horsham the chance of all three points at lowly East Grinstead but of greater concern to boss Dom Di Paola will be the injury to Lewis Hyde that could sideline the centre-half for a number of weeks. The former Petersfield man landed awkwardly in the final minutes, dislocating his shoulder, and with an ambulance called, both managers agreed with the referee’s decision to call an end to proceedings a minute early.
It was a disappointing end to the game for the Hornets, who were playing their second match in just forty-eight hours, as two spectacular strikes from Curtis Gayler and Joe Shelley had seemingly put them on course for an eighth away win of the campaign with just six minutes remaining. But then a sliced clearance by Steve Metcalf caused confusion inside the Horsham penalty area and Charlie Postance was on hand to give the Wasps a deserved share of the spoils.
Di Paola made four changes to the team that started Sunday’s match at Cray, with George Landais, Hakeem Adelakun and Tony Nwachukwu all missing from the squad and Darren Boswell swapping places with Matt Axell on the bench. Gayler and Toby House returned to the eleven and there was an appearance on the subs’ bench for seventeen year old Fintan Walsh, signed on Saturday from Whitehawk.
Hyde was in the thick of things as early as the fourth minute when Oliver Boulding’s pass put Alex Gaggin in behind Bailie Rogers and, when his low cross was only cleared as far as Leo Mazzone, Hyde spread himself bravely to block the shot. House responded with Horsham’s first attempt on goal, two minutes later, but sent a long-ranger down the throat of ‘keeper Dan Smith and Josh Pelling had to react quickly to prevent Gaggin from converting a clever pass from Ainsley Everitt in a pretty open opening ten minutes. Charlie Farmer headed a Metcalf corner over the crossbar but, despite plenty of endeavour by both sides, goalscoring chances became limited.
House just failed to bring a wonderful raking pass from the impressive Ryan Worrall under control, that would have given the striker a clear run on goal, but Joe Shelley had to recover quickly to block from Gaggin after the big centre-half lost possession when electing to bring a cross down on his chest. The Horsham defence looked composed throughout the match, while the hosts’ back four coped comfortably with anything their opponents could throw at them, which invariably came via a long ball out of defence. That is, though, until a misplaced pass by Ricardo Thompson gifted the ball straight to Axell who, with House and Alfie Rogers peeling away in support, elected to shoot himself and sent the ball narrowly past Smith’s left-hand post.
It might have proved a costly miss when the tricky Everett collected a pass out wide on the left then cut inside, racing half the width of the pitch, before smashing a powerful drive into the side-netting. Then in the final action of the half, a quick Horsham counter-attack earned the visitors a corner from which Shelley’s deflected header was cleared from the foot of the post by a defender.
H/T East Grinstead Town 0 Horsham 0
Horsham sent on Walsh for Bailie Rogers at the start of the second half and the home side looked to take immediate advantage of any reorganising in the visitors’ ranks when play was allowed to continue after Gaggin had been felled on the edge of the box, but Postance’s low shot was saved by Pelling. Just minutes later, Axell rolled a free-kick to Gayler, just outside the Grinstead box, and the former Burgess Hill midfielder struck a superb first-time shot that arrowed beyond Smith and into the far corner of the net to register the game’s opening goal in spectacular style.
Grinstead, 5-4 victors at Thamesmead last midweek, hit back within minutes when a firmly struck shot by Postance stung the palms of Pelling who palmed the ball skywards. When it was returned into the box, a flick-on looked to have diverted the ball into the path of Ponstance but he was unable to turn it home at full stretch. An even better chance came Postance’s way when Steve Sargent’s threaded pass put him in the clear but once more Pelling stood firm to push the shot away to maintain Horsham’s lead.
Yet it wasn’t long before parity was restored when the Hornets’ backline was breached once more, this time Gaggin managing to clip the ball beyond Pelling and into the back of the net for the equalising goal. Grinstead rang the changes, sending on Will Hoare and Oshaye Giraud-Hutchinson for Sargent and Mazzone respectively, but it was Horsham’s half-time substitute, Walsh, who might have put the visitors back in front when Worrall’s fine run and low cross needed a firmer touch than the replacement could provide and Smith made a sharp save at his near post. Pelling needed to be on his guard to keep out a speculative effort from Michael Wilson, the ‘keeper retreating smartly back to his line to claim the ball at full stretch under the shadow of the crossbar, before Henry Watson came on for Axell with eleven minutes to go. The switch saw Watson move to full-back, with Walsh taking up a right-sided midfield role, and Shelley going up front in a move that provided almost instant dividends. A cross from the left found Alfie Rogers closely marked by three players but the youngster managed to lay the ball back for Shelley to crash a rising drive into the roof of the net for another spectacular Horsham goal. Just ten minutes remained but, with six to go, a sliced clearance by Metcalf sent the ball high into the night sky and, when it dropped on the edge of Pelling’s six yard box, Shelley was unable to clear and Postance drove the ball home.
Both teams sent on fresh legs for the time that remained, with Josh Street replacing House and Drew Cooney coming on for Gaggin, but an off-target attempt by Shelley aside, there were to be no more chances and, instead, the match finished with the sorry sight of Hyde laying motionless on the pitch in obvious distress. With the decision made not to move the stricken player, nor attempt to put the damaged shoulder back in place, both managers accepted Ryan Whittaker’s decision to ‘blow up’ with just sixty seconds remaining.
Report by Mark Wells
Match photos by John Lines, here