The rain began to fall, whilst the wind picked up as Guernsey kicked off their first home Boxing Day fixture in the Bostik League.
Matches away against The Channel Islanders have traditionally been well supported by Horsham supporters, usually bringing high numbers across the English Channel, so there was understandable irritation when the fixtures were announced during the summer as Hornets supporters realised that Christmas would likely prevent the vast majority of Horsham fans from making the trip on this occasion.
Manager Dom Di Paola was unable to hide his displeasure earlier in the season at the timing of the fixture, as he bemoaned the difficulties of the logistics of making an already gruelling trip even harder during the festive period – for both his players and supporters. However, he and Club Secretary Jeff Barrett, will have deserved a few mince pies and glasses of mulled wine upon his return home, after watching his side repay his hard work in naming a full team as his Hornets side returned home with all three points to silence the vocal Footes Lane crowd.
Those home supporters were out of their seats early on when Guernsey were handed the first chance to make an impression on the match when skipper Scott Kirkwood brought down Sebastian Skillen. However with Tom De La Mare set up some thirty yards out, he was only able to hook his shot well wide of the target.
Horsham looked lively soon after as Darren Boswell intercepted a Guernsey pass. The ball was swiftly played out to Liam MacDevitt who raced into the area and went one-on-one with the goalkeeper William Dennis, only to shoot straight at him as The Green Lions escaped punishment.
Boswell was in on the action again as Horsham broke the deadlock in the twelve minute. Kirkwood’s corner was missed by everybody in the box until it was picked up by Boswell at the back, who returned the ball into the box, but a quick deflection helped the ball fall kindly at the feet of Tony Nwachukwu who poked home.
Horsham should have doubled their lead shortly afterwards when MacDevitt was able to use his blistering pace once more to break through the home defence, but from a tight angle he found only the side netting.
Guernsey began to apply pressure to drag themselves level, and they did so on twenty-six minutes when debutant Lewis Broughton was forced into making a poor back-pass that regained Guernsey possession, and as the hosts crossed in towards the edge of the box towards Tom De La Mare, the midfielder composed himself with a touch before striking the ball into the net to get his side back on level terms.
The Green Lions then almost undid their hard work moments before the interval, when Horsham were awarded a penalty for a foul on Nwachukwu after he had been fed an inch-perfect pass from Josh Street. With the Hornets forward bundled over by Jamie Dodd, and the referee pointing to the spot, a big cheer erupted from the home faithful as Nwachukwu put the resulting spot kick wide.
H/T: Guernsey 1 Horsham 1
Guernsey started the second half brightly with Skillen attempting an effort on goal as he cut in from the left and fired at goal, but his low shot was beaten away by Horsham goalkeeper Brannon Daly at his near post.
Toby House came on to replace MacDevitt soon afterwards, and found himself immediately in the thick of the action as he connected with searching ball over the top, however his effort was denied as Guernsey cleared off the line, while the rebound fell to Kirkwood whose clever chip was tipped wide by Dennis, diving well to his top left corner.
However there was nothing Dennis could do seconds after the resulting corner yielded a second Horsham goal to put the visitors back in front. As Kirkwood played the short corner to Boswell, the winger let fly with a wonder-strike firing across goal into the top corner.
With the rain now torrential, Horsham looked to finish off the hosts with the killer blow, yet they almost were pegged back by Matt Loaring who lost out in the one-on-one show down against Daly who collected comfortably.
Daly then denied Loaring once again as he parried another chance out for a corner as the Channel Islanders looked for another leveller. With the corner coming to De Le Mare, there was relief in the Horsham ranks when on this occasion he was unable to keep his long-range effort down as Horsham regained control.
But Horsham sealed the victory with five minutes of normal time left. Some strong play in midfield from Dean Bown and Scott Harris ensured possession was kept for the Yellows, and with Horsham playing into the wind, Josh Street’s pass was fed into the path of Nwachukwu, who atoned for his earlier penalty miss, but sidestepping one defender, before dispatching beyond Dennis for a well taken goal.
With his brace assuring the points, the former Horsham Youth product, made way for a member of the next generation of Horsham’s young talent, as Under 16 forward Kieran Bonner was introduced to the first team for his debut.
Despite the result in the bag for Horsham, Guernsey would fashion the final chance of the match, when Craig Young’s effort from eighteen yards was driven wide to sum up a disappointing day for Guernsey while Horsham headed back onto the plane having unwrapped the perfect Christmas present of three more valuable points.
Reporter: Sam Borrett
Images: John Lines