It can be hard to find the right words to use when you’re on the wrong end of a 8-0 thrashing, yet for Horsham, nothing other than ‘abject disaster’ would be more appropriate as Horsham suffered their heaviest defeat in a competitive fixture since 1982.
For Horsham supporters old enough to remember, the last time Horsham lost by an eight-goal margin, was in September 1982, when Leyton-Wingate thrashed a then side managed by Fred Stenning 10-2. The same opponents achieved a similar feat at The Hornet’s expense during the previous season, but while they didn’t manage double figures, they managed to record the same scoreline that Dom Di Paola’s side would suffer nearly thirty-six years later during an abysmal afternoon at Bromley’s Hayes Lane.
It is worth noting however, that as dreadful as Horsham were, the attacking front line of Cray deserve much credit for producing such a ruthless display that will underline their own credentials both in cup and league competitions this season, with Jerome Frederico, Karl Dent and Freddie Parker all producing displays that would have made picking a man-of-the-match all the more difficult to choose from. For Horsham supporters however who made the journey, it will do little to console them, however they deserve credit for continuing to support the team as a horror show unfurled in front of them.
This was the second time in seven days that The Hornets faced The Wands, with Di Paola keen to take revenge after suffering a 0-3 loss at Culver Road the previous weekend. Yet despite securing a 2-1 win in midweek at Shoreham, his squad were simply torn apart by a rampant Cray side, who – unlike in the previous fixture – would not take their foot off the gas on this occasion, and in a carbon copy of the weekend before, they raced into a 3-0 lead within half an hour gone.
A sign of what was to come occurred in just the third minute, when a good ball released Michael Power out wide, who strode forward and crossed towards the onrushing Jereme Frederico, but despite controlling well on his chest, he smashed high over the bar after rushing his shot.
Cray began the thrashing in just the sixth minute, when Horsham failed to pick up Aaron Rhule, and the striker curled in a spectular strike from the edge of the area which beat Michael Hunter and nestled into the top corner.
The Hornets looked for a response, but struggled to get going however an excellent block by Lea Dawson ensured Joe Shelley’s shot would not trouble home goalkeeper Nick Blue as Horsham enjoyed a rare excursion into Cray’s penalty area.
Wanderers soon added a second in the twenty-second minute, when Horsham failed to clear their lines following a corner, and as the ball came out to Frederico, the midfielder’s shot was sent straight through a sea of players, with Hunter unable to keep the shot out after seeing it late on.
Charlie Farmer then went close to halving the deficit, heading wide from Darren Budd’s freekick, yet once again, Cray found the net with their next attempt on goal. Karl Dent showed Budd how it was done, when his freekick in a similar position was sent over towards the back post, where somehow Horsham’s defence went missing, allowing an unmarked Marcus Evans to ghost in and volley across the face of goal and into the net with the side of his foot.
Game over, however unlike in the previous match, Cray sensed blood and decided to rip Horsham apart mercilessly. In their next attack, another dissecting ball split Horsham’s defence for Rhule to chase down, and as he got to the by-line, his low cross was met from close range by prolific Cray hitman Michael Power, who buried it.
The Wands made it five, with just over five minutes of the half remaining, when Karl Dent’s powerful run saw him break into the penalty box as Horsham’s defence struggled to cope, having played a hand in all of the goals up until that point, he chose to get in on the action himself, but his low drive was saved low down by Hunter, who was unfortunate to spill the ball, and in swept Power to humiliate Horsham as they went in at the break 5-0 down.
H/T: Cray Wanderers 5 Horsham 0
The damage limitation exercise envisaged by the Horsham management lasted a mere fifteen minutes into the second half, when Horsham became subject to a harsh handball after referee David Harrison was notified by his assistant that Frederico’s cross had struck the arm off Alex Duncan. Having replaced Power at the break, substitute Freddie Parker made sure he would be the star of the second half, when he claimed the first of an eventual hat-trick, coolly sending Hunter the wrong way from the spot.
Horsham’s frustration was beginning to bubble, and when Alex Duncan chopped down Frederico, the full-back was lucky not to cost his side a seventh goal when the resulting g freekick was curled through the face of goal with no one on hand to turn it in as, once again, Horsham’s defence went missing.
Horsham finally had a shot on target with twenty-four minutes left, as a rare lapse in concentration from Cray’s defenders gave Scott Kirkwood a sniff from thirty yards out, as Horsham won a freekick, yet his fierce drive at goal was comfortably held by Nick Blue, who up until that point, had been a spectator.
But Horsham unravelled further, as shambolic defending made it all too easy for the outstanding Frederico as he jinxed his way into the box, as Horsham once again failed to contain him, and with Parker waiting, his backwards pass was delicately passed into the net.
Parker would seal his hat-trick and score the final goal of the game with twelve minutes remaining when he roamed forward unchallenged and picked his spot to pile on the misery on the guests.
Unsurprisingly, the result confirms our worst ever FA Trophy defeat, and to boot, Dom Di Paola’s heaviest since taking charge of the club. The Hornets will take scant consolation that they didn’t concede double figures and that losing by this margin will hopefully only be a once-in-a-generation occurrence. There will be plenty of chances to atone for this loss during this season, but Hornets supporters will hope that Tuesday evening’s home tie against Carshalton Athletic will see atonement come sooner, rather than later.
Reporter: Matt Dale