Chris Smith’s seventy-third minute finish proved enough to be the difference at Culver Road as The Hornets followed up their mid-week FA Cup victory against Corinthian, with a narrow 1-0 success against winless Herne Bay.
With just one win in their first four league outings, Horsham needed to ensure they got back to the business of picking up points, and despite Bay entering the game having enjoyed a full week’s rest compared to Dom Di Paola’s team enduring mid-week excursions, his team were well worth the points as the visitors rarely troubled goalkeeper Josh Pelling, while the margin of victory might have been bigger for The Hornets, but for the woodwork and several goal line clearances before Smith struck.
With confidence high after their resounding 5-0 win on Wednesday, The Hornets started the game brightly when Lee Harding’s cross was nodded wide by Rob O’Toole who failed to get a clean contact, while his strike partner Smith hit a sweat looking half-volley following a corner as he was found in plenty of space, only for Bay skipper Matt Fry to bravely head away off the line.
Smith’s endeavour would later see him denied by the upright minutes later as he went agonisingly close to scoring by racing onto a flick-on and cleverly rounding his marker to put himself in a great position, but his low shot across the face of goal stuck the base of the post as Bay shepherded the ball to safety.
Herne Bay issued a reminder that they were in the contest moments later as Horsham struggled to break down an attack as the ball came through to Danny Leonard, who smacked it first time but straight at Pelling who had to react well to parry upwards as he caught the rebound.
Despite the lively start, the game took on an increasingly scrappy tone as Will Hoare tried to force something with a mazy dribble as he darted across the edge of the box and hit a tame shot that Jordan Beeney was tasked to deal with, while the visiting goalie was quick to smother the danger with Harding lurking as he tried to convert Hoare’s diagonal header out towards him.
Pelling was then forced into another decent stop to pluck out a looping header towards goal as Luis Medina met Danny Rumbol’s cross as the Bay hitman was denied, but it was Horsham who continued to enjoy the better chances when a long throw-in was flicked back towards goal by O’Toole but for another goal-line scramble to ensure the half remained goal-less.
H/T: Horsham 0 Herne Bay 0
The Hornets came out of the traps the quickest for the second half as they looked to grab the opening goal and take the game to their visitors, and they nearly got rewarded for their lively start moments in when Harding’s cross went through the gap in defence for Smith to slide in at the back, but he failed to make the contact he wanted allowing Fry the chance to mop things up off the line.
With Harding proving himself a menace to Bay’s defence and constantly finding space down the right channel, another zapped cross across the face of goal by the midfielder saw another chance go begging as he overhit the ball while Smith and O’Toole failed to react in time to convert.
Bay themselves continued to struggle to create chances of their own with a poor effort from Jake Embery firing well wide after he attempted to create space for himself while under close scrutiny from Joe Shelley.
Harding again found joy down the wing as he skipped beyond his marker, a goal beckoned when he broke behind the defence and took the ball to the byline, but with Smith making the run and offering himself for the pass, the midfield maestro appeared to get caught in two minds as he went for glory himself but fired into Beeney who clawed it away when the pass would have surely resulted in a goal.
Yet again, Harding’s innovation continued as he got the better once more of Simon Kabamba, this time driving forward and sending in another dangourous centre, but for Ben Gorham who managed to get the final touch thanks to a timely interception as O’Toole and Smith both looked ready to pounce.
A rare foray into Horsham’s own half resulted in a run by Medina getting into the box but firing into the side netting but Horsham finally broke through with just over fifteen minutes remaining. A clever flick-on by O’Toole played the ball beautifully into the path of Smith as Bay’s defence froze up, and the striker raced through one-on-one against Beeney and made no mistake with his composed finish low down.
It was no more than The Hornets, and Smith – who had worked tirelessly upfront – deserved, and despite the slender lead, the visitors offered very little in response as they failed to test Pelling, while a pot-shot by Daryl Coleman was about as close as The Hornets would come to doubling their lead.
Bay substitute Alexander Mulrooney-Skinner’s late drive from twenty-five yards did threaten to put Horsham supporters’ hearts in their mouths minutes before full time as his fierce effort fly over the bar, but Horsham were able to see the game out comfortably to record their second league win and climb to twelve in the table.
Next up for Horsham is a tasty looking home fixture next weekend in the FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round when we take on Heybridge Swifts.
Reporter: Matt Dale
Match sponsor: Mark & Angela Butler
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