Pagham claimed another scalp in the Sussex Senior Cup at a bitterly cold Nyetimber Lane as they defied the odds to put three goals past Dom Di Paola’s side without reply, despite playing the majority of the game with ten men.
Having provided arguably one of the biggest upsets of the previous round, in which The Lions knocked out Bostik League South side Lewes, there was wary trepidation that the fixture might prove a potential banana skin to The Hornets – who have not won this competition since 1976, and it proved so as Pagham repeated the trick to dump Horsham out of the cup, despite Ryan Cox’s twentieth minute dismissal for a straight red card.
However while Horsham’s backroom staff will hold the inquest as to what went wrong on the frosty pitch, Pagham deserve tremendous credit for their performance as they continued to take the game to Horsham despite being outmanned, with goalkeeper James Binfield outstanding as he pulled off several excellent saves including a pivotal second half penalty save with the score at 2-0. With Pagham already through to the RUR Charity Cup final, and only eight points off the top in the Southern Combined Premier Division, The Lions showed flagrant disregard to the underdog tag, as they produced an excellent performance even the most ardent of Horsham supporters couldn’t possibly fail to acknowledge, with several Hornets fans applauding the Pagham team off at the end of the match – a stark contrast to events when Horsham last visited Nyetimber Lane in May 2016, on the last day of the season having already secured the Southern Combination Premier Division title.
It took just eight minutes for The Lions to breach Horsham’s defence and break the deadlock when Dan Simmond’s delivered a cross in towards the box, however Hakeem Adelakun’s hesitation to deal with the danger allowed Callum Overton the chance to take advantage of the poor defending as he steered the ball past a helpless Josh Pelling.
Horsham’s response was met by disciplined defending by the home side as The Lions continued to snuff out attacks from the visitors, but their job was suddenly made a lot harder in the twentieth minute when Jack Hartley was caught by a scathing challenge from Ryan Cox, who caught the Horsham midfielder above his shin in a meaty challenge, and with Horsham’s players and supporters venting their displeasure, the referee agreed and showed the fullback a straight red card.
The resulting freekick from the edge of the semi circle being hit direct at Binfield who made a comfortable catch. Binfield would again be key to the action, firstly making an easy save low down to keep out a hopeful looking shot by Adelakun, but the Pagham shot-stopper was tested properly four minutes later, when Horsham won another freekick in a similar position. This time, Jack Hartley’s curling attempt going round the outside of the wall and heading for the top corner, only to be tipped away with a superb one handed diving save.
Sensing a way back into the contest, Toby House was soon denied when his headed effort was cleared off the line as Horsham began to step things up as the interval approached, yet Horsham were finding themselves limited to half chances, with Scott Kirkwood skewing well wide from Tony Nwachuckwu’s cut back as the home side made it to the break with the lead safely intact.
H/T: Pagham 1 Horsham 0
With Hartley succumbing to the injury he sustained during the earlier offending challenge, Dean Bown was sent on to replace him for the start of the second half, however it was the ten men of Pagham who soon secured the game’s second goal. With fifty-three minutes on the clock, a Pagham freekick at the edge of the park was whipped in and with the ball causing panic for the Horsham defence, it was headed back across goal, where Overton reacted quickest to turn in from four yards out.
Horsham were stunned, and it could have got worse minutes later, but for Pelling saving well after striker Simmonds managed to race past his man as the linesman’s flag stayed down, only for his effort at Pelling’s near side to be beaten away.
At the other end, Binfield showed why he’s considered one of the best goalkeepers in the County League when he denied House from close range to keep out his clever effort, after the young striker had done well to latch onto a low cross, before turning and getting a decent shot away.
With Horsham finding their final ball not quite paying off, they were offered a route back into the game when Shay Wiggins hauled House to the ground inside the box, leaving the referee little option to point to the spot. Yet the protests from the home side where quickly forgotten about when Scott Kirkwood’s firmly struck spot kick was palmed away brilliantly by Binfield, who correctly followed the ball to dive to his left-hand side.
It was perhaps almost inevitable that having been denied chance to reduce the arrears and get back into the game, that Pagham would kill off the visitors just two minutes later. Having survived the pressure on their own goal, a quick counter attack exposed Horsham’s weaknesses at the back as a long ball over the top found Simmonds, and with Darren Boswell struggling to cover, the Pagham hitman worked his way to the edge of the box and arched a curling shot around Pelling and into the back of the net.
It was hard to argue that it was harsh on Horsham, who had tried to work their way back into the match, but to no avail, yet Horsham’s evening was summed up soon afterwards by Tom Tolfrey who managed to round Binfield but could only fire into the side netting from an acute angle.
Pagham will now join fellow County League side Saltdean United with both sides now safely through to the semi-final. Horsham meanwhile, will be left to focus entirely on their league campaign, with the visit to Corinthian-Casuals coming up on Saturday as The Hornets aim to consolidate a mid-table finish by the end of the campaign.
Reporter: Matt Dale
Images: John Lines