Horsham suffered their first defeat of 2018 as Herne Bay returned once again to Culver Road to end Horsham’s recent league resurgence. With Horsham looking for a fourth consecutive win, hopes were high that they would achieve it against the Kent side who had lost their last three matches on the trot, however Bay – who earlier in the season dumped The Hornets out of the FA Cup with a 2-5 scoreline at Culver Road – ripped up the form book in front of manager Dom Di Paola, as they picked up a much needed win, while frustrating Horsham fans who missed out on the chance to climb into the top ten.
Following wins against Lewes, VCD Athletic and Whyteleafe, Di Paola had spoken about how his side were embroiled in a ‘mini-league’ of sorts, with just two points separating ninth to fourteenth place in the league, and with Sittingbourne losing and South Park’s match postponed earlier, it was a case of opportunity lost to go top of that ‘mini-league’, as Horsham instead drop to thirteenth.
Despite the formbook weighing heavily in favour of Horsham, it appeared Bay had not read the script when they showed promising intent during the opening ten minutes as they immediately camped in Horsham’s half. It took the visitors just fifty seconds to have the first shot in anger, with Tom Carlton testing goalkeeper Josh Pelling with a hopeful shot that skimmed the surface but proved simple enough to gather low down.
Within two minutes, Richard Ismail tried his luck when he collected inside the box, but he shot wide after taking an initial step to his left to steady himself.
The visitors had a great chance to score on just seven minutes, when a great ball over the top unlocked the defence for Carlton, who had space, yet the midfielder’s extra touch meant shooting from a tight angle, with Pelling coming to his side’s aid blocking with his legs.
However, Horsham’s first foray into Bay’s own half resulted in them putting the ball into the back of the net, however despite some good build up play by Jack Hartley evading his marker and crossing low, Toby House’s conversion with swiftly ruled out by the linesman’s raised flag as he strayed offside.
A minute later, Hakeem Adelakun’s dipping long range effort was palmed over by Ben Hunter, while the visiting goalkeeper produced another important stop, when he clawed away Steve Metcalf’s bouncing header, after the full-back attempted to creep in at the back post to nod in Scott Kirkwood’s deep freekick.
With the game now becoming more end to end, it was Bay’s turn to try and break the deadlock with Josh Wisson gaining possession inside the box, however his poked shot failed to find its way through a crowd of yellow shirts as the hosts blocked well.
Arguably the best chances were coming Horsham’s way, however a matter of inches prevented The Hornets taking the lead mid-way through the half, when House was unable to convert Adelakun’s low cross, with Bradley Schafer doing just enough to ensure the young striker failed to hit the target.
Bay then went close before half time when Junior Aikhionbare proved a handful for Lewis Hyde, and switched play for Danny Leonard to shoot wide, before Ben Gorham headed just over from a freekick a minute before the interval.
H/T: Horsham 0 Herne Bay 0
Despite plenty of chances for both sides during the first half, the first chance of the second half yielded the first goal of the game as the game suddenly burst into life with three goals in five minutes. However it was Herne Bay who took the lead as they caught Horsham napping, the home side failing to deal with Tom Carlton’s loaded freekick, and when the ball came to Aikhionbare on his own in the six yard box, the striker’s cushioned header gave Pelling little chance as Horsham failed to pick the dangerman up.
Within four minutes of the restart, Bay found themselves two goals up. With Leonard escaping and getting to the by-line, his searching ball into the Horsham box was turned into his own net by the unfortunate Metcalf, sliding in as he tried to clear.
Horsham suddenly burst into life a minute later and pulled a goal back thanks to a searching ball from Charlie Harris out wide, who pulled back to find Tony Nwachukwu at the edge of the box who smashed a thunderbolt into the top corner.
Despite pulling a goal back, Bay continued to look the more likely to score, and they should have had a third minutes later when Aikhionbare’s clever turn inside the semi-circle was followed up with a disappointing finish as he dragged wide after Horsham’s defence had been carved open. The guests then had another good chance to kill off the contest as Horsham’s rear-guard once again struggled to cope, with Nassim Dukali this time missing the target.
Metcalf then came close to costing his side another own goal when he attempted to head away a dangerous ball in to the box, but too his relief, his header hit the upright as Horsham survived.
With the game entering it’s final ten minutes, Horsham attempted to salvage a point as Herne Bay took on a more defence minded approach, but The Hornets spurned a fabulous opportunity to level things with five minutes remaining when substitute Dean Bown latched on to a superb defence splitting ball, but despite being one-on-one with Hunter, the striker’s control was poor as he fumbled and lashed wide in what was a real let off for the Kent team.
Bown was then offered a second chance a minute later to atone for his miss when he once more found himself in space and picked up another good ball through to him, but once again he managed to fluff his lines, hitting tamely at Hunter.
With five minutes of additional time added on, there was still a last gasp chance for Horsham to snatch a point at the death when Bown saw his goalbound header hurried away for a corner, but there was no way through for The Hornets as Herne Bay held on.
Horsham will next take on Sittingbourne away from home next Saturday, while they entertain promotion chasing Greenwich Borough in two weeks at Culver Road.
Match sponsor: Tanbury Motors
Match Reporter: Matt Dale
Images: John Lines