Greenwich Borough moved to within two points of the automatic promotion places after this deserved victory that saw the South Londoners avenge their November loss to the Hornets. After an even and goalless first half, in which both sides had chances to go in front, Greenwich took just four minutes of the second to break the deadlock and when Jack Barham added a second from the penalty spot, just after the hour mark, the contest was effectively over.
That 2-0 reverse at the DGS Marine Stadium was the last time in which last season’s beaten play-off semi-finalists had tasted defeat, an impressive run of results that had catapulted them in to the top six despite the recent departure of manager Gary Alexander and prolific goalscorer Charlie MacDonald. Instrumental in today’s success was wide man Nassim Dukali, a pacy and tricky winger who had given the Horsham defence such a ragged time in Herne Bay’s 5-2 FA Cup win back in September. Once more he tormented and teased the Hornets backline on an eye-catching debut for the Cannons, and was involved in most of the visitors’ best moves.
With Barham also impressing, it made for a tough afternoon for a patched-up back four that was without Steve Metcalf and the holidaying Joe Shelley. Yet, with Scott Kirkwood dropping into the centre of defence, they kept their opponents at bay throughout the opening forty-five minutes and, with better fortune, might even have gone into the break with a goal or two advantage.
The match was less than two minutes old when Tony Nwachukwu sidefooted a Darren Boswell cross over the crossbar and, despite plenty of Greenwich possession, Horsham also forged the next opening when Matt Axell planted a free-kick deep to the far post where Lewis Hyde got up well to loop a header on to the roof of the net. But the hosts were lucky to escape punishment when, moments later, Hyde’s telegraphed pass went straight to Chinedu McKenzie who set up Dukali for a close range shot that was blocked by the alert Josh Pelling. In an open first quarter of an hour, the Hornets immediately countered and this time it was Pelling’s opposite number, Michael McEntegart, who showed quick reactions to deny Toby House.
McKenzie probably ought to have done better when a measured attack saw Hyde block Barham’s initial attempt, only for McKenzie to drag the loose ball wide when well-placed. A minute later and it was Horsham’s turn to spurn a decent opening when Nwachukwu pounced on a defensive slip to reach the byeline, only for his attempted pass to George Landais to be easily cut out by the Greenwich defence. McKenzie was again profligate when, following some more quick-footedness by Dukali down the left, Kirkwood’s clearance only went as far as the powerful front man who skied his first time shot.
The pace and general movement of Greenwich’s attacks made Horsham’s look laboured by comparison, although to suggest the home side’s play was such would be harsh and it was they who had a glint of a chance when House pressured McEntegart into a hurried clearance that went straight to Tony Oaks. But the debutant, signed this week on loan from Dorking Wanderers until the end of the season, was quickly challenged as he looked to smash the ball back into the unguarded net from some thirty-five yards and the danger was averted. There remained just the one further chance for either side to change the scoreline before the interval, when a challenge by Axell was adjudged to have been a foul one that presented Greenwich with a free-kick on the edge of the ‘D’ but Kaka Dembele shot tamely through the defensive wall and straight into the arms of Pelling.
H/T Horsham 0 Greenwich Borough 0
There was almost a dramatic start to the second half when a Greenwich attack broke down and Axell sent Nwachukwu scampering clear from the halfway line only to have his shot saved by McEntegart at his near post. Almost immediately, Boswell’s trickery gave him the space to get in a cross that was sliced behind his own goal by ex-Hornet Callum McGeehan, with Hyde’s shot from the resulting corner high, wide, and none-too-handsome. But any encouragement the home supporters might have been given by their side’s positive start to the half were quickly dashed when Barham’s intelligent angled run was spotted by Dukali and the Greenwich number nine collected his team-mate’s pass before racing away down the left and delivering the cross from which the unmarked McKenzie fired the visitors in front.
The same player went close to adding a second, three minutes later, when Axell was dispossessed in the centre-circle and the ball was quickly played out for McKenzie to force Pelling into a save. Oaks and House made way for Curtis Gayler and Tom Tolfrey, another to have made the temporary switch from Dorking this week, but it was Greenwich who threatened next when Nathan Paul put a free header over the bar from a corner.
The visitors’ next attack saw them double their advantage when, after Josh Street had run into a bank of three Greenwich defenders, Dukali again picked out the run of Barham. Kirkwood, tempted into the challenge after Barham had slightly overrun the ball, was just too late to execute the ball-winning challenge and Barham was sent tumbling inside the box. A clear penalty, even if referee Robert Ablitt’s body language initially suggested otherwise, and Barham sent Pelling the wrong way from the spot, confidently despatching the ball low into the ‘keeper’s right hand corner. With the comfort of a two goal lead under their belts, Greenwich went in search of a third and Tom Carsle tried his luck when, moving forward into space, he hit a left-footed drive that looked goalbound until it took a hefty deflection off the head of Kirkwood and flew behind for a corner.
Far from having thrown in the towel, Horsham produced a fine move in which Landais helped on Nwachukwu’s pass to Tolfrey whose first time shot had to be pushed around his post by McEntegart. Then a foul by McGeehan on Tolfrey, for which the defender was yellow-carded, enabled Gayler to swing in a free-kick with Street managing to manoeuvre himself into space before firing a shot just a yard or so beyond the far post. But Dukali continued to impress and he conjured up a terrific effort out of nothing when holding off four players and sending an effort just wide from twenty yards.
Gayler smashed one into the advertising boards at the side of McEntegart’s goal, from a Boswell pass, and then a dangerous cross from Tolfrey flicked first off the head of Landais and then the toe of Nwachukwu before going behind for a goal-kick. It was an admirable response from the home side and another glorious Tolfrey cross went begging once again, with Carsle the only player in the Greenwich goalmouth to get his head on the ball as he cleared the danger. But the last word belonged to Barham, who would have pushed Dukali hard for the Man of the Match accolade had it not been awarded to Pelling, when his audacious attempt to chip the ‘keeper from out on the far touchline ended with the ball drifting just wide of the post.
Report by Mark Wells
Photos by John Lines
Match sponsor: Simon Edwards (Utilities) Consulting Ltd
Matchball sponsor: Alan Keary