An accomplished second half performance by Dom Di Paola’s Horsham side earned The Hornets an impressive away victory in leafy Surrey as Horsham kept up their impressive record of never having lost a game at King George’s Field.
The Sparks have struggled with their pitch in recent weeks, with postponements causing a backlog of games and the state of their playing surface resulting in playing a game on Thursday evening at nearby neighbours Merstham. While arguably South Park might have some justification to point to fatigue playing it’s part having had to play four games in seven days, they will find little sympathy from those in Yellow and Green as Horsham came from behind to record a 1-3 win.
Having watched his side lose 2-4 at home to Walton Casuals the previous weekend, Di Paola spoke of “school boy errors and sloppy mistakes” costing his side points, but despite an uninspiring first ten minutes in which the two sides tried to figure the other out, he would have been fuming at the manner the way his side conceded in the fifteenth minute. A poorly executed back pass by Charlie Farmer gave his goalkeeper Josh Pelling no chance as the ball was intercepted by Jack Mazzone and the Sparks striker rounded the Horsham shot-stopper to roll into an empty net.
Horsham responded with a flurry of corners that required a goal-line clearance by Pelling’s opposite number Tom Miles as South Park scrambled away, but Park’s lead would last for less than ten minutes when Horsham countered after a hopeful volley from Sam Renfry was clawed away and a surging run and subsequent cross into the box from George Landais was coolly chested into the net by on-loan forward Shane Cojocarel.
With a first half with few chances, it was the home side who nearly went in at the break with the lead as The Sparks worked their way up the pitch and with a ricochet helping the ball along to James McElligott, the midfielder failed to compose himself, scuffing a shot from the edge of the area that Pelling gathered comfortably.
H/T: South Park 1 Horsham 1
With just three minutes of the second half underway, a crucial interception from Joe Shelley saved Horsham from falling behind for a second time, when he slid in and emerged first with the ball to prevent McElligott from firing at an open goal with Pelling stranded outside his box having made a clearance seconds previously.
It then took a acrobatic diving save from Miles to ensure parity would resume two minutes later, the home ‘keeper palming away as Curtis Gaylor’s curling freekick almost found its way into the net.
With the game becoming open, tiredness from the home side was beginning to show, and when Shelley’s poorly timed sliding challenge allowed Mazzone in with a chance behind the Hornets defence, his decision to try and beat Pelling off his line from distance proved the wrong move, when running at goal in what should have been a one-on-one situation appeared the better option.
However South Park’s fatigue levels where Horsham’s gain, and with The Sparks committed high up the pitch, a quick break from Horsham opened up the home defence as Landais fed Cojocarel with a delightful ball just in front for him to run onto, and he calmly picked his spot with a composed finish.
Moments after the restart, Horsham had a decent chance to go two goals clear when they threatened another break, but with Cojocarel supplying Landais, the move broke down as South Park cleared.
But just after the hour mark, Horsham won a corner that was delivered in and when subsititute Dean Bown headed downwards, Landais was unlucky to see his nod on come back off the crossbar, but Farmer redeemed himself for his earlier mistake being at the right place at the right time to sweep home from two yards out.
Boyed by their comfortable lead, Horsham were enjoying themselves and playing some attractive football as they looked to add to their lead, and it took another excellent diving save from Miles to keep the visitors at bay once again, while Landais also watched as his knock down was cleared in front of goal.
South Park looked for a way back, but failed to test the Horsham goalkeeper with an ambitious shot from Mazzone easy catching practice for Pelling, while a deep cross was headed across the face of goal and beyond the post by Luke Elliot as the hosts toiled.
Horsham continued to look the more likely to score as they harassed their opponents during the closing stages, and some excellent persistence from Toby House put South Park’s defence under pressure as he emerged with the ball and spotted the run of Darren Boswell who attempted to add the gloss to the victory, seeing his strike take a deflection off a defender and bounce backwards and past the post.
The Hornets had another chance to finish the job off with four minutes of normal time to go when Fintan Walsh threaded a clever ball down the side for House to chase down, but alone, he took the ball out with too much of angle to fire in and side footed low direct at Miles who blocked with his legs before smothering the danger.
Horsham will hope to build on this morale boosting victory as they head to Lewes on Wednesday evening for the rearranged Sussex derby as they hope to put a dent in their rival’s title bid.
Reporter: Matt Dale