Horsham avoided a Halloween fright night as they spooked hosts Walton Casuals thanks to ‘ghouls’ from Toby House, Dean Bown and Steve Metcalf to dump The Stags out of the Velocity Cup Second Round, and set up a date with Dulwich Hamlet at the next stage.
It appeared The Hornets had shot themselves in the foot early on during the second half, when Joe Shelley’s horror moment was punished by Sean McCormack, but Horsham responded superbly with a fightback that ensured it would be the Surrey side who would endure an end of October nightmare as clinical Horsham deservedly went through.
The League Cup has often struggled to capture the imagination of supporters, however for the seventy supporters who decided against going out Trick or Treating, they were served up a treat on the football pitch, in what was ultimately a very entertaining game of football, as both sides took the competition seriously and the end product was a contest that was end to end during large periods.
Horsham had the first chance inside seven minutes to open the scoring. A long ball over the top was brought down well by Metcalf, sneaking in behind the defence, but he travelled too far before taking a shot that was well blocked by the legs of Denzel Gerrar.
A minute later, the hosts had a chance to find the net through a decent chance of their own when Luke Holness attempted to slide the ball across the face of Michael Hunter, but the Horsham goalkeeper did well to impose his physical stature and put the striker off as he angled his shot just wide.
The game not even ten minutes old, Horsham went on another attack immediately afterwards, this time as House fed Jack Hartley, who burst into the box and shot, only for his effort to be superbly batted away by Geller, with Casuals quickly clearing the danger away as James Thurgar lurked looking for the rebound.
Hunter then came to Horsham’s rescue as his defence stood off and allowed Alex Kelly to power in a driven shot that was well saved as the ‘keeper spread his body to block.
The Stags again looked to force the opener as Metcalf’s initial block saw the ball fall back out to Jack Battie who rushed a volleyed effort with the outside of his boot that went wide of goal.
Possibly frightened at the prospect of seeing a ghost, the normally reliable Hunter almost cost his side a goal in the twenty-fifth minute when he went to catch a routine cross. For reasons unknown, he allowed the ball to go through his fingers, and as the ball trickled towards the goal-line with Holness ready to capitalise, in came Alex Duncan to spare his ‘keeper’s blushes with a superb last-ditched clearance.
George Landais then saw a curled attempt go just wide as things began to calm down after the half hour mark, yet Duncan was again Horsham’s saviour two minutes before the interval. Having given possession away cheaply following a free-kick, Casuals quickly played the ball around Horsham’s final third of the pitch as Horsham struggled to contain them at the back, and as McCormack tried to force in the opener, Duncan’s excellent block once again thwarted The Stags as he put his body on the line.
H/T: Walton Casuals 0 Horsham 0
Having defended resolutely during the first half, The Hornets got off to the worst possible start as the second half commenced when within six minutes, Shelley’s error at the back put Casuals in front. An uncharacteristic poor back-pass to Hunter was intercepted easily by McCormack who took full advantage to punish him by finishing down the centre of the net.
Horsham’s response was to bring the game to Casuals, and they were unluckly not to draw level a minute later when Hartley powered down the wing and sent over a dangerous cross into the box, however Landais could only flick his header just wide as he looked for the top corner.
Horsham had the ball in the net on sixty-two minutes only for it to be correctly disallowed. Duncan’s throw-in to Hartley was met with a turn of pace from the young midfielder, who left his marker for dead and whipped in an excellent cross for Landais who powered his header into the net, yet despite the cheers from the few Horsham supporters, they were quickly hushed by the raised flag of the linesman, who correctly spotted the Lewis loanee had strayed offside.
Yet score Horsham did, two minutes later. Some good work on the right side by Duncan and Hartley allowed the latter to send in another dangerous cross into the six yard box where it was missed by everyone, and as the ball found its way back to House, the young striker tucked it away beyond Garrar.
Horsham had another great chance to take the lead soon afterwards, as again Hartley’s crossing was too good for the Casuals to deal with, but this time Landais could only volley into the gloves of Gerrar.
By now, Horsham were on the front foot, and they took the lead with twelve minutes remaining. Substitute Bown appeared to be slowed down on the edge of the box by the Casuals defence, yet he found a way through as he squirmed in a low shot that Gellar saw too late to put Horsham in front.
With The Stags stunned, Horsham put the game beyond them with a third goal, eight minutes from time. A deep corner send over found Metcalf at the back post, and with time and space at his disposal, he rifled in a sweet strike to send The Hornets into the third round.
With Horsham in control, Casuals were reduced to long range shots during the closing few minutes, with Hunter saving comfortably as the visitors saw the game out.
Horsham are now unbeaten in four matches in all competitions, ahead of a tough trip to Faversham Town on Saturday.
Reporter: Matt Dale