Horsham kicked off their Easter Double Header with a loss at home to Walton Casuals, as The Hornets suffered their 800th Isthmian League defeat with a disappointing performance at Culver Road on Easter Saturday. Having dispatched Ashford United 3-0 on Tuesday evening, Dom Di Paola’s side were up against much tougher opposition as The Stags look to finish the season in a play-off position, however the Horsham boss looking on would expected a better performance as he named an unchanged starting eleven from midweek.
With eight games left to play heading into the fixture, Di Poala will – somewhat justifiably – point to a season in which his squad have been ravaged by injury, but he will have no doubt made shoring up his leaky defence his priority for next season, as his side once again conceded four goals, for the third time in five matches.
This was the fourth time this season that the two sides had lined up against each other, with the reverse league fixture ending in a 1-1 stalemate, and two League Cup fixtures being ruled null and void due to player registration issues, however in the eighth minute, the visitors showed that familiarity counts for nothing as they showcased their attacking intent early on, with Josh Kelly laying the ball off to Isaac Sarpong at the edge of the semi-circle, but with plenty of space to compose himself, he fired direct at goalkeeper Josh Pelling, who parried with a strong hand.
Kelly came close himself eight minutes later, when he latched onto a threaded ball and sneaked behind Horsham’s defence, but despite opening up the inside of his boot to go for placement, Pelling and his defence were relieved to see his effort squirm inches wide of the post.
Pelling was doing a sterling job to keep Casuals at bay, and he did so again with another parried clearance, after Sean McCormack successfully turned Charlie Farmer inside-out and curled toward goal, forcing Pelling into the save.
Yet Horsham failed to head the warning signs and soon found themselves a goal down on the half-hour mark thanks to some shoddy defending. Josh Kelly once again tormenting Farmer by escaping his attentions with a darting run, before he cut inside took advantage of Joe Shelley struggling to cover at the back and the striker unselfishly rolled the ball across the front of the box where Alex Kelly converted with a composed finish.
With Horsham unable to muster a response, Casuals went close to doubling their lead before half time, when a fierce shot from the edge of the area from Josh Kelly saw another firm stop by Pelling, yet on the stroke of half time, Casuals did indeed add a second. An unstoppable run by Youseff Bamba on the far wing saw the powerful winger travel high up the pitch and skip past Henry Watson before he blasted high and into the roof of the net from the angle to put the guests in total control at the break.
H/T: Horsham 0 Walton Casuals 2
Having failed to test away goalkeeper Denzil Gerrar in the first half, Horsham left it until the fifty-fifth minute to register their first shot on target with a hopeful, although dangerous shot from Scott Kirkwood that skimmed the surface and forced Gerrar to push away for a corner.
Minutes later, Toby House was played in behind the Casuals defence as the visitors found themselves stretched at the back, but he overhit his pass towards Alfie Rogers, who failed to connect cleanly, giving Gerrar an easy job to pluck the ball to safety.
It was third time lucky though, when Horsham pulled a goal back with their next attacking move of note, and once more it was the combination of House and Rogers that bore fruit, with the former giving chase to a long ball over the top as Horsham dissected the Stags, and his low cross was expertly swept in at the near post by the latter.
Despite halving the deficit, and keeping out two Casuals shots with goal line clearances, The Stags soon regained their two goal cushion six minutes later. A promising Horsham move broke down as Kirkwood’s pass was cut out by Dominic Ogun, and full-back spotted the run of Bamba sending him a delicious ball to run onto, and the midfielder once again ripped Horsham open with another fine run and finish across Pelling and into the bottom far corner as Horsham failed to shrug him off.
The game was far from over though with ten minutes left to play, when Horsham were offered a lifeline by referee Mr Robert Ablitt, who spotted an infringement inside the box on Barnet loanee Shane Cojocarel and pointed to the spot to the frustration of the visiting side. Curtis Gayler not allowing the pressure to get to him as he made no mistake and converted.
But Horsham failed to take the initiative to salvage something from the game, and appeared to be doing their best to help Casuals with some more questionable defending, and it appeared to be curtains for The Hornets as sub Jack Sammoutis managed to turn away from his marker and create plenty of space in which to shoot, yet he somehow managed to fire wide.
With time running out, Horsham came close to snatching an unlikely equaliser as Toby House’s shot took a deflection and headed towards Cojocarel at the back post, yet Gerrar was quick off the mark to smother the danger before he could react.
Casuals left it until a minute before the end to make the points safe though, as Horsham threw in the towel. Sammoutis found Josh Kelly curtesy of a diagonal long ball that Shelley failed to cut out, but the hit-man required two attempts despite being through one-on-one, with his first effort being parried by Pelling who could only watch as he took advantage with the follow up to put the game beyond the hosts.
Horsham now have forty-eight hours to rest before heading to table topping Lewes on Bank Holiday Monday for a Sussex derby.
Reporter: Matt Dale