Hornets manager Dom Di Paola and team were left buzzing after recording an excellent first ever victory at Woodstock Park in unfavorable conditions. After being thrashed 5-1 in the reverse fixture at Culver Road earlier in the season, this win all but erased that memory, as Horsham continue to make steady progress in the league, jumping to eleventh place.
After the match, Committee Chairman Sean Bravery had joked that the result had become ‘boring’, observing that trips into Kent now often resulted in wins for The Hornets, after six years of futile excursions in the Garden of England. Indeed, this was a win that now means Horsham have seven victories away from home, gaining them a better return in points than they have enjoyed at Culver Road so far this campaign.
Sittingbourne kicked off with heavy rain driving into their faces and immediately went on the attack for the first ten minutes in which The Hornets barely got out of their own half. With two good chances for Kane Rowland and David Smith flashing past the post, the visitors relied on timely interceptions from Steve Metcalf and Lewis Hyde, respectively to keep the scores level.
With rain and wind continuing to sweep in, the playing surface was becoming more like a skating rink with players having to be careful with control, balance and tackling.
However, Horsham’s first meaningful attack resulted in a goal in the eleventh minute. Starting with a throw in, Metcalf found time to deliver a cross into the box where Tony Nwachukwu got a toe on the ball, cleverly lifting it over goalkeeper Harry Brooks hands and into the net, the forward celebrating with his customary triple somersault as his team mates closed in for hugs.
The goal provided the visitors with the confidence to settle the side down as they started to move the ball better, with both sides trying to out pass each other despite the poor quality of the pitch helping neither side.
Nwachukwu was giving Salvyn Kisitu a torrid time with his pace, steaming past the full-back to deliver several good crosses into the box that caused panic in the home defence, while Hyde’s well directed header from a corner was cleared off the line by Brickies skipper Miles Cornwell, to the relief of his team mates.
At the other end, a quick break from the home side led by Cornwell give Rowland the opportunity to level the scores but Josh Pelling got down well to thwart the Brickies front man.
With half an hour on the clock, Chris Webber tried to put the ball into the six yard box, it looked as though it was overhit but dropped alarmingly, grazing the top of Pelling’s cross bar.
However within seconds from Sittingbourne’s next attack, Horsham found themselves two goals clear. A long ball out from the Hornets defence, managed to deceive centre-back Laurence Ball, and Toby House reacted quickest as he spotted Brooks off his line, hitting a perfect chip over his head to give his side a two goal cushion, and bag his fifteenth goal of the season.
Having fallen further behind, the home side were suddenly spurred into action, and they halved the score line within two minutes when Cornwell picked out Tom Loynes in space and he finished well firing across a diving Pelling into the far corner.
The remaining twelve minutes of the first half saw half chances fall for both sides but the home side missed a good opportunity to go into the break on level terms when Smith pulled his shot wide after doing the hard work to get into a good shooting position.
H/T: Sittingbourne 1 Horsham 2
Looking to restore their two-goal advantage, it was Horsham who had the first shot on target after the restart, when Jack Hartley’s twenty yard effort was gratefully held by Brooks, while Pelling – having changed his strip – showed safe hands minutes later, hanging onto a testing Loynes cross with Rowland lurking and looking for any mistake from the Hornets ‘keeper.
Around the hour mark substitutes were introduced, with Nwachukwu making way for Dean Bown and the home side replacing Lex Allan with Josh Dorling.
A Darren Boswell cross forced Brooks into punching clear as Horsham threatened, while Mobolaji Dawodu wasted a fine chance to equalise, firing wide in what was to be his final contribution in the game as Tyrone Guthrie came on in his place.
Curtis Gaylor had a go with a long range effort that was straight at Brooks, while in return, Guthrie struck an effort well wide of Pelling’s goal as both sides continued to fashion half chances.
However a controversial refereeing decision threatened to derail Horsham’s hard work and infuriated the Hornets bench, when a sliced attempted clearance inside Horsham’s own penalty area was heading for the bottom corner, a diving Pelling managed to hang on to the ball, yet the away side were incensed to hear the referee’s whistle, who awarded the home side an indirect free kick, eight yards out, deeming it to be a pass back. With all eleven players in yellow and green standing on the goal line and several red and black shirts in front of them, Rowland blasted his effort into the solid wall and the visitors survived.
Man in black, Mr. Dempster then produced another bizarre decision at the expense of the visitors, when substitute Alfie Rogers did well to get beyond his marker, and make his way into the penalty area, only to be pushed in the back and sent flying into the ground. Despite the protests for a penalty from both the away supporters and players, Rogers’ pain was compounded with a yellow card as the referee instead booked him for simulation.
With time running out, Sittingbourne were throwing more players forward in an attempt to snatch an equalizer as they forced several corners, yet Rowland squandered a glorious chance from one such corner, as his bullet header cleared the bar.
It was obvious that with so many going forward the home side would be vulnerable to a quick break, and Bown should have capitalised when such an opportunity fell to him as he latched on to a ball high up the pitch, but he lacked composure as he fired over the bar.
However, with five minutes of added on time already played, and with the away supporters eagerly calling for the final whistle, Horsham would deliver a killer blow. Bown once more picked up a pass, dribbling his way past defenders and trying to work his way to find a shooting chance, but he resisted the urge to go it alone, and switched possession to George Landais – making his return on loan for a second spell this season with the club – who cut inside the defender and slotted home just inside the near post sending the visiting fans wild.
Reporter: Jim Bravery