It’s fair to say mega fan Derek Burbidge has seen it all over the years. Against Faversham Town today, the loyal Horsham supporter chalked up his 500th consecutive game following his beloved team. In his programme notes, Hornets manager Dom Di Paola acknowledged the achievement and admitted the supporter had probably seen a fair few good and bad times during his incredible run, including relegation and winning the Southern Combination Premier Division in 2016. But quite how highly Derek would rank this match amongst the previous 499 games is anyone’s guess, as The Hornets put in one of their most disappointing performances of the season.
A lack of consistency has continued to be a problem for The Hornets this season, often managing to win against teams higher up the table, while dropping points against struggling opposition. Queue the visit of Faversham Town, twentieth in the league, and having only won once in ten games – a 6-1 thrashing of basement club Shoreham. Yet the Kent side found Horsham in extremely generous mood, as woeful defending and profligate finishing helped the Lillywhites to a 0-3 win. This, coupled with Shane Cojocarel’s second half sending off for violent conduct mid-way through the second half compounding a miserable afternoon for Derek and his fellow Horsham supporters.
Di Paola had commented after the 4-2 defeat at Lewes that he felt his side put in a spirited display in mid-week but ultimately it was one that failed to reward the excellent support off the pitch. His patched-up side was also given a set-back overnight with the withdrawal of defender Joe Shelley for personal reasons, and the absence of the towering 2015 Player of the Year was noticeable with Horsham’s defensive frailties frequently exposed, however he signalled his intent to go for goals with an attack minded line-up.
Despite an early Horsham attack in which a lay-off from Dean Bown to Toby House broke down just outside the penalty area, the visitors took a thirteenth minute lead with their first shot on goal. With Scott Kirkwood standing in as a make-shift centre halve, he, and teammate Henry Watson failed to put in a challenge on Luke Harvey who collected high up the pitch and ran at them both, and the Town striker shrugged off the attention to break into the box and open the scoring with a low finish past the onrushing Josh Pelling.
The Hornets had an excellent opportunity to restore parity minutes later when Darren Boswell’s great footwork enabled him to intelligently slip in House for a one-on-one against Simon Overland, yet the young striker failed to compose himself, attempting to clip round him with the visiting goalkeeper putting out a glove to divert the ball away for a corner.
Having wasted such a great opportunity, there was relief amongst Horsham soon after as Faversham Town were invited into Horsham’s half during the nineteenth minute. An over-hit cross fell for Ashley Miller who returned the ball back into the mix as the Horsham defence froze up expecting an offside flag that never came, and there was tangible relief when Bolo Dawodu somehow managed to squirm his effort wide from six yards out.
With Horsham struggling to create chances, it was the visitors who appeared more likely to score and add to their lead just before the half-hour mark. Curtis Gaylor’s strong interception inside the box on Dawodu appeared to do enough to prevent him applying the finish, but the Lillywhite’s hitman regained possession and released a shot-come-cross that flew in front of the face of goal before arriving at the feet of Miller, he then found his shot blocked while Harvey blasted the rebound high and over the bar.
Spurred into an immediate change, Di Paola withdrew Henry Watson for Josh Street to attempt to steady things at the back, but once again, Horsham found themselves let down by further wayward finishing.
First as George Landais showed good persistence to pile his way into the box where he flicked out to Bown who met the ball with a low drive that Overland gobbled up. Bown was then guilty of missing a gilt-edged chance a minute later when Boswell’s pass unlocked the Town defence for House to chase down, and his perfectly weighted low cross into the box appeared destined to end up in the back of the net, yet Bown failed to connect cleanly scuffing off his shin and into the arms of Overland.
Frustration then almost cost Horsham from falling further behind on the stroke of half time due to Kirkwood’s deliberate handball outside the box giving Faversham Town a free kick in a dangerous position. Danny Walder’s delivery was swung in where Dawodu jumped highest but nodded his effort well over.
H/T: Horsham 0 Faversham Town 1
Early on during the second half, Faversham Town went close to increasing their lead fortuitously when a hoofed clearance by George Monger nearly caught out the back-peddling Pelling, but the home custodian managed to spare his blushes to get back in time and swat away the danger.
There was however, nothing lucky about Town’s second goal, at least from the visitors’ perspective. A corner was pumped into the Horsham box and after some head-tennis in which Horsham failed to deal with, the ball was turned in by Harvey, nodding in from close range to the delight of the few travelling away supporters.
Looking for a response and a way back into the contest, House managed to skip past two defenders as he made his way into the penalty area to face down Overland, yet his effort on the turn was much too close to the Lillywhite’s shot-stopper who blocked with his legs.
Despite all of Horsham’s endeavour and determination to keep attacking, the visitors were continuing to enjoy the best chances, as a corner was headed towards goal and nodded onto the crossbar by Matt Bourne, as Town somehow failed to get their noses further in front.
But hopes for a Horsham comeback were delivered a blow as The Hornets were reduced to ten men with just over twenty minutes remaining. A coming together inside the box between Oliver Lee resulted in Shane Cojocarel retaliating by appearing to kick out petulantly at the Faversham defender, and with ‘keeper Overland angrily remonstrating with the officials, referee Shelby Elson took the on-loan Barnet man to one side before showing him a straight red card, while Lee escaped with a yellow for his part in the scuffle.
It then took Town just four minutes to make their numerical advantage count as they countered Horsham’s stretched backline thanks to a determined run down the wing by Ben Chapman, and his wonderfully weighted cross in towards Dawodu was cushioned into the net with a low volley to kill off the hosts.
Horsham’s wretched afternoon was effectively summed up ten minutes from time when House had a super chance to pull a consolation goal and make the final few minutes a bit more interesting, yet he managed to send his header over the bar, despite being unmarked at the back post.
The woodwork then came to Horsham’s aid for a second time during the afternoon with six minutes remaining. Having already been denied by the crossbar earlier during the half, Bourne’s firm strike rebounded back off the post with the defender unable to believe his luck, while Pelling was at least able to prevent the follow up, diving low to keep out Renford Tenyue’s attempt.
Horsham’s final two fixtures see us travel to VCD Athletic next Saturday, while we round off the season at Culver Road with the visit of Whyteleafe.
Reporter: Matt Dale
Images: John Lines