After waiting anxiously for the beginning of the 2017/18 season to begin, Horsham fans were left with a feeling of anti-climax as Dom Di Paola’s side fell to an opening day defeat away at Molesey in what was a poor display from The Hornets and one he will hope is quickly forgotten in the weeks and months to come.
That Horsham failed to win this game shouldn’t have come as a total surprise to Horsham supporters who made the trip to Surrey – The Hornets have not won an opening day league fixture since August 2013 and they certainly did not look likely to correct that issue as The Moles largely dominated this game and kept the visitors on the backfoot for large periods.
Sporting their new home kit with designated squad numbers for the first time, and with a newly assembled squad featuring familiar faces and new additions, the feeling coming into the game amongst Horsham supporters was that this new season would be one of further improvement following our return to the League twelve months ago initially looked promising in the first few minutes as striker Rob O’ Toole’s darting run across the face of goal at the edge of the box resulted in a pass for Darren Budd to run onto but the former Bognor Regis Town midfielder smashed his shot over the crossbar.
From then on, the game was largely dictated by the home side, and on six minutes, Ronnie Sobowale had his sides first effort on goal, when he hit ambitious shot at the edge of the semi-circle, but his powerful drive cleared Michael Hunter’s goal.
Horsham went close two minutes later, Tom Lawley’s deep free kick was well punched over his own goal for a corner, and from the resulting set-piece, the ball found its way to Darren Boswell who tried to curl an effort towards the top corner, but clipped the top of the netting.
Molesey grew stronger and more into the game, and looked to hit Horsham on the quick counter. A ball quickly played out from The Moles own half to Josh Andrew allowed the powerful midfielder to carry the ball into the opposite half, where he spotted the run of Sobowale in the centre and crossed towards him, but the forward was unable to test Hunter, as his flicked header sailed over the bar.
Sobowale then tried to turn provider with the next attack, this time crossing towards Ross Chalk who attempted to acrobatically convert but despite making the connection, his positioning allowed for Hunter to make a comfortable catch.
The pressure continued to emerge from the home side, with Hunter coming to his sides rescue tipping away a close-range header low down whilst he almost allowed himself to get caught out six minutes before the break, when he came off his line to try and punch clear Craig Lewington’s deep free kick, but was beaten to the ball by Rhys Paul, who let The Hornets off the hook as his header from inside the box somehow went over the bar.
H/T: Molesey 0 Horsham 0
Having appeared to have weathered the storm in the first half, Horsham were undone within two minutes of the second period as the hosts took a deserved lead. Some poor defending from Horsham in which two poor challenges on Olu Akinsanya failed to dispossess him allowed him to get into a great position in the six yard box, where he squared the ball to Sobowale who prodded in from three yards out.
The same combination almost doubled Molesey’s lead barely three minutes later, when once again Horsham failed to deal with Akinsanya and he once more played the ball across to Sobowale, but after sidestepping to evade his marker, his poor shot on goal gave Hunter the chance to save low down.
Suddenly, Horsham found more urgency in their play, as a first real effort in the half came after a bit of pressure on the home side resulted in O’Toole directing a header over the bar yet on sixty-seven minutes, The Moles sealed the points. After Horsham lost possession, another strong counter from Molesey saw the ball quickly quickly clipped over the top for the impressive Akinsanya to run onto and he wrapped things up, bearing down on goal and smartly finding the net between Hunter and his near post.
Di Paola immediately made changes, withdrawing Tom Lawley and Darren Boswell and introducing Asa Nicolson and Toby House in a last-ditch attempt to salvage something, and the move nearly paid off as Houses’ diagonal header across goal towards the top corner required a diving save from Liam Allen.
The Hornets however, did manage to pull a goal back with six minutes remaining and give a faint glimmer of hope that an unlikely comeback was on, when substitute Toby House picked up a loose ball in the box and went for goal, with the ball taking a deflection off a Moles defender and leaving Allen unable to keep the ball out.
House was then involved in a late break in injury time as Horsham desperately tried to rescue a point as he held up the ball and slid a pass towards Scott Kirkwood, but from twenty yards out, his shot failed to test Allen as The Moles held on comfortably.
Horsham will look to claim their first league points at ‘home’ at Culver Road on Tuesday evening when we entertain Bostik League new boys, Shoreham.
Reporter: Matt Dale
Match photos can be seen here, courtesy of John Lines