Josh Pelling saved Horsham a point against a robust Hythe Town side as neither team could grind out a winner in a gruelling stalemate in the Bostik League Division One South. Darren Oldaker’s stunning free-kick cancelled out Alfie Rogers’ opener in the first half and Horsham had Pelling to thank after he kept out a sure-fire goal in the ninety-fifth minute.
Despite having a one-man advantage after Chris Kinnear’s dismissal midway through the second period, Horsham were unable to find the same winning edge which saw them overcome Phoenix Sports last weekend. Although the draw now makes it fourteen points accrued in Kent this season; perhaps proof that the long considered ‘hoodoo’ is most definitely over.
Nicknamed the Cannons, Hythe were gunning for more success as they headed into the match, having scored nine goals in their last two matches including a 6-0 thrashing of basement club Shoreham and an impressive 3-2 victory over Hastings United last Saturday. Meanwhile, last week’s win over Phoenix Sports was Horsham’s first since January and, although they defeated Hythe Town in the reverse fixture in November thanks to goals from Dean Bown and Joe Shelley, this was going to be a much sterner test as Hythe, sat in seventh, are still competing with an outside chance of reaching the play-offs. Ryan Worrall, signed from Tonbridge Angels during the week, made his debut, coming into the squad for Matt Axell in what was an otherwise unchanged line-up from last time out.
In blustery conditions, Horsham took an early lead after just two minutes as Alfie Rogers hit a powerful shot from the edge of the area. It was a seemingly routine save, however Hythe ‘keeper Will Godmon spilled the effort, Rob Green-esque, to give the Hornets the lead out of nothing. Pelling was tested for the first time in the fourteenth minute as Ryan Palmer’s wind-assisted cross caught the Horsham number one off guard but Pelling managed to palm the ball away to start a counter-attack. Moments later, Toby House came within centimetres from doubling Horsham’s lead as his curling attempt cannoned off the bar with the keeper beaten.
Charlie Farmer headed over in the eighteenth minute after a deep corner was headed back into the mixer by Tom Tolfrey but Farmer failed to hit the target. The game continued the trend of end-to-end football as, minutes later, Kieron Campbell cut inside from the wing before laying off to Chris Kinnear whose low drive sailed wide.
Hythe were awarded a free-kick, thirty yards out in the twenty-ninth minute, after Joe Shelley scythed down Ryan Palmer and the home side levelled the scores from the resulting strike. A stunning shot from Darren Oldaker dipped perfectly over the wall and into the far corner, with Pelling rooted to his line giving Hythe a deserved equaliser.
Charlie Webster was unable to replicate his teammate’s wonder goal, a minute into added time, as his free-kick blasted straight into the wall but, if it weren’t for more heroics from Pelling, Hythe would have been in front heading into the break. Yet the goalkeeper produced a delightful diving save to keep out an unmarked header.
H/T: Hythe Town 1 Horsham 1
Horsham made a half-time substitution with Josh Street coming off for Steve Metcalf, but it made no immediate difference. Hythe started where they left off, causing problems for the Horsham back-line with Campbell and Palmer consistently tormenting Lewis Hyde and Worrall throughout the ninety minutes. The home side had another free-kick, five minutes after the restart, however this time Oldaker could only fire into the side-netting. Campbell snaked past two Horsham players on the fifty-fourth minute but his shot was blocked by Worrall and deflected out for a corner.
The Hornets continued to try to break the deadlock once more, but Scott Kirkwood received the game’s first yellow card for a clumsy challenge. But the visitors had a great opportunity through Tolfrey on the hour mark. Turning Salvyn Kistu inside out, the striker charged forward but, despite having options, he chose to shoot, and his tame effort proved no trouble for Godman.
Horsham made their second substitution after sixty-eight minutes with George Landais coming off for Tony Nwachukwu to use the space on the wings to greater effect. But then came a contentious decision as Hythe went down to ten men in the seventy-seventh minute. Kirkwood went down in a heap following a challenge from Kinnear and, although Kirkwood was deemed injured enough to be replaced by Darren Boswell, Kinnear’s tackle didn’t seem dangerous enough to warrant a sending off. So, it was a surprise to many when referee Peter Cruise did indeed brandish a red card to the skipper, who, despite protesting his innocence, eventually made his way back down the tunnel.
With the one-man advantage, Horsham were supposedly in the driving seat but they would only have one clear-cut chance for the rest of the game. After being put through on goal thanks to a trademark Shelley looping header, Hyde decided to head first-time, going agonisingly wide of the post. Hythe’s Jerson Dos Santos came off for Michael Turner with ten minutes left as they tried to nick all three points, and Town were left cursing the presence of Pelling who made another miraculous save, denying Palmer the winner. Horsham could not clear their lines and the ball fell to Palmer who turned and unleashed a fierce effort but Pelling came across superbly to keep the effort out in what was the final chance of the game.
Both sides will feel the result was a chance missed as a Hythe win would have seen them move three points away from the top six following Walton Casuals’ defeat away to Whyteleafe while a Horsham victory would have seen them move up to tenth with a win as teams around them also failed to pick up three points.
Instead, Horsham will hope next Saturday’s home fixture against Ashford United will be the perfect opportunity to move up from their current position of twelfth place.
Match report by Matt Jones
Images by John Lines