Horsham responded to their loss last weekend at Phoenix Sports by narrowly beating Kent side Ramsgate 1-0 in an ill-tempered affair at Culver Road this afternoon.
Previous matches against The Rams in past seasons have had a tendency to be rather feisty, with the Kent side having something of a reputation amongst Hornets fans as a tough tackling team, and this occasion proved no different as the game was punctuated throughout with fouls and yellow cards, while Hornets defender Lewis Hyde was show a red card late on, with Rob Saunders also ordered off the pitch for the visitors in the dying stages after Rob O’ Toole had put Horsham in front.
The man in charge of the day, referee Graeme Ions would fail to endear himself to either set of supporters. Despite his best efforts, he often struggled to get a grip of proceedings on the pitch, as he showed inconsistently throughout with his decision making as his firm approach resulted in a game with many stoppages that added to the frustration for both sides, however to make the game solely about him would be an injustice to Horsham who ground out another win while not at their best, and under plenty of provocation from the visitors who did their best to wind up Horsham’s playing staff and supporters as things often threatened to boil over both on and off the pitch.
With all the bulk of the action seemingly involving the referee, the forgotten man and hero was goal-scorer O’Toole, as it was his goal in the seventy-sixth minute that was enough to secure all three points for Horsham as for the second time in three weeks, The Hornets won by a goal to nil.
Mr. Ions didn’t need long to find out how heavily involved he would find himself during the game, as early on in the fifth minute, he ruled in Horsham’s favour for a freekick at the edge of the corner of the box when O’Toole was obstructed by George Crimmen who clashed heads with the Hornets hitman. After treatment, Crimmen was shown the first of the games seven yellow cards, however Charlie Harris’ freekick was swept wide as he went for the near post.
Seven minutes later, Ramsgate let Horsham know they were a threat to be dealt with, when Tom Chapman found space down the right flank and crossed into the box, yet his pacy ball was too early for any of his teammates who failed to get into the box as it ran out of play.
The Hornets then spurned three great chances in quick succession to take the lead midway through the half. The first came when an excellent through ball from George Hayward released Harris who romped his way up towards the by-line and squared, however Dorking Wanderers loanee Kieran Lavery found himself behind the play and failed to connect.
Moments after that, a quick Horsham counter through Lee Harding saw him get forward and cross low intowards the box, his ball not being dealt with by The Rams defence as it went across the face of goal and surprised full-back Jake Mackezie who swung a boot at it, only for the ball to bounce back off Lavery and into the clutches of goalkeeper Luke Watkins.
The best chance of the half came just after the half hour mark though, when again, Horsham found success on the right flank, this time as O’Toole surged and crossed low, it should have been an easy tap in for Harding who was on hand to meet it from two yards, yet somehow, he fired at Watkins – with the goalkeeper deserving credit for scrambling across his line to deny him.
Ramsgate tried to relieve the pressure through an ambitious effort twenty-five yards from Tom Chapman, but Horsham finished the stronger of the two sides, when they had a strong shout for a penalty turned down by Mr. Ions as Lavery appeared to be bundled by Saunders inside the box. Despite Horsham’s protests, Ions opted to award a goalkick.
H/T: Horsham 0 Ramsgate 0
The ideal message at half time to both sets of players would have been to try to calm down, yet the visitors emerged from the dressing room ever more determined to play rough and ready with their hosts, and having earlier got away with giving away a penalty, Saunders’ poor challenge on Jack Brivio resulted in him going in hard through the back of the Horsham midfielder, but despite Mr. Ions trying to allow Horsham the advantage, he brought the game back and showed Saunders a yellow card as Hornets supporters felt he had got off lightly. Horsham were also forced into a change minutes later as Harris himself was on the wrong end of another dubious challenge that saw him unable to continue to be replaced with Dean Lovegrove.
Horsham shot-stopper Josh Pelling was then required to keep the scores level when he produced a fine block to charge down Aaron Millbank’s ferocious strike after the Rams man had lost Lewis Hyde.
Despite Millbank’s attempt, The Hornets looked the more likely to score, with the yellows unable to turn in a corner as the ball travelled through a crowded box and went out for another, while the second attempt came to Brivio who attempted to steer it home, only for Watkins to dive and smother the ball.
Ramsgate managed to fashion a couple more chances though, with Crimmen’s bullet header needing to be headed off the line by the Horsham defence, and then some poor control by Hayward allowed Oliver Gray in to steal the ball away and fire at goal with a poor shot that Pelling comfortably dealt with.
Dom Di Paola decided to exchange Lavery for Chris Smith to freshen up his attack, and the move began to look inspired as some good build up play from The Hornets saw a lofted ball into the box to O’Toole who centred behind Smith as the final ball left him unable to convert.
Having been on the pitch for ten minutes, Smith would turn out to be the architect to Horsham’s victory, when he provided the assist for O’Toole’s winning goal. Having broken the offside, Smith’s composed touch and turn allowed him to latch onto an over the top through ball, and he duly raced forward and crossed to feed O’Toole who claimed a poacher’s goal prodding in from six yards.
Controversy continued to rear it’s head when Horsham were denied another penalty, this one more clear cut when Smith was blatantly upended inside the box, however Mr. Ions ignored the appeals as the game continued and Horsham looked to secure the points with a second goal when Harvey Spark’s run and cut inside allowed him to pass to Tyrell Richardson-Brown, who blasted over.
Tempers well and truly frayed for both sides, a clash on the sideline resulted in both sets of players squaring up to each other while things also became slightly fractious inside the stand between both sets of fans, and after order had been restored, Lewis Hyde was instructed off the pitch after being shown a red card.
That order only lasted a matter of seconds, when Horsham gave away a cynical foul on the opposite touchline as once more, both sets of players piled in as things again boiled over. This time though, Mr. Ion’s concluded that Saunders’ involvement required a second yellow card as he levelled things up.
Horsham successfully dealt with the resulting freekick to see out the game, as Di Paola’s battle-weary men celebrated the win that sees them take another big step to securing a play-off place come the end of the campaign.