Once again, Horsham left it late as this time they scored in timely fashion to secure a well-deserved point against play-off and Sussex rivals Hastings United at a drizzly Culver Road this evening.
Horsham have made an impressive habit recently of scoring late on in matches, and they appeared to be running out of ideas against an impressive Hastings United side, as the Arrows looked set to hold on following Jordy Mongoy’s fine individual effort just before the hour mark. However Dom Di Paola’s side – as they have on numerous occasions this season – refused to accept they were beaten, as Steve Metcalf scored a rare goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time to send the East Sussex side back home along the coast road with a share of the spoils.
It was a fair reflection following an absorbing and free flowing game in which both sides showed plenty of attacking flair and defensive resolve, and for any neutrals watching a fine example why the visitors and the hosts were sat in third and fourth in the league standings respectively. Quite what this result will mean for the long term however will become clear as we enter the business end of the season, although both sides will no doubt see this as a point gained for their own personal ambitions if they are to secure places in the four play-off places that are up for grabs.
Horsham almost got off to a disastrous start within two minutes of kick off when Jack Brivio gave away possession inside his own half, Sam Adams intercepted and charged ahead with just goalkeeper Josh Pelling to be, but despite the Hornets ‘keeper clawing away at the U’s man feet, the ball came out to Jack Dixon who had an empty net to fire into, yet amazingly he struck the base of the post.
Despite the setback, Horsham responded well and began to assert themselves on the game gradually, and in the eleventh minute, George Hayward’s take down on his chest allowed him to steer a shot on the volley towards goal, only for Charlie Horlock to beat the ball away with an equally impressive save.
Horlock would again be called upon three minutes later as Harvey Sparks’ brilliant cross was nodded goalwards by Tyrell Richardson-Brown from close range, but the U’s ‘keeper stuck out a strong hand to turn it around the post.
The electric pace of Hastings United top prolific hitman Daniel Ajakalye caused Joe Shelley to lunge in on him as he sprinted beyond, but with no contact made, referee Simon Finnigan was quick to issue a yellow card to United’s top goalscorer ruling he had dived.
Ajakalye was later thwarted by a superb sliding challenge from Hornets debutant Will Miles as he kept up with the quick striker as Hastings continued to pose a threat for Horsham, yet the home side themselves were equally dangerous with Sparks’ freekick proving elusive for Rob O’Toole inside the box as the delivery ran out of play.
Despite Horsham narrowly edging the proceedings, Hastings finished the first half the stronger of the two sides, and they were unlucky not to go in at the break a goal up when a corner was sent deep towards the back post where Temitope Eweka met it with a header towards goal, yet Pelling managed to just about get a touch to tip onto the bar, while Shelley mopped up to clear off the line.
H/T: Horsham 0 Hastings United 0
With the half time break giving everyone time to catch their breath, and Club Committee Chairman Sean Bravery the chance to reflect on his inability to throw a stray ball back onto the pitch, the two teams emerged for the second half reenergised.
A short corner routine for the hosts resulted in Sparks dragging a shot wide of the near post, yet with the game in danger of slowing down, The Arrows went in front on fifty-eight minutes. Ollie Black’s ball sent Jody Mongoy on a run down the left flank where he drew in Shelley and rode the challenge, and as he escaped his man, the midfielder applied the finish by cutting inside and firing across the face of goal into the far corner.
Horsham attempted to respond two minutes later when Richardson-Brown squared outside the area for Chris Smith who dug the ball out from underneath his feet to fire straight at Horlock for an easy catch.
A stray back-pass from Jahmal Howlett-Mundel almost threatened to embarrass Horlock who had to scurry back to his line to kick away the danger. Horlock was called into action again to keep his side’s lead intact to prevent Lee Harding chipping him from close range after he had latched onto Sparks’ delicate threaded pass.
With time running out, Horsham had what they thought would be their final decent chance of the game. Scott Kirkwood’s freekick was flicked on by Shelley towards O’Toole who found himself behind the defence, yet from close range he poked wide.
United’s attempts to manage the dying moments of the game looked set to have worked, yet Horsham’s resilience and determination not to settle finally resulted in a deserved goal. With Horsham pinging the ball around the Arrow’s penalty area, a loose ball was seized upon by Shelley who blasted goalwards, Horlock managed to get a glove on the ball to divert it onto the crossbar, and as Eweka attempted to clear the follow-up, he was quickly hustled off the ball. Horlock again came to attempt to clear, yet Metcalf was found with the goal gaping and steered into the net to the delight of the Horsham supporters.