Horsham secured their first points of the 2018/19 campaign, coming from behind with a 1-2 success against Bostik League new-boys Sevenoaks Town.
Horsham’s last visit to Greatness Park came almost two years ago to the day when they were dumped out of the FA Cup during another disappointing visit to Kent. Since then, trips to Kent are rather different now, indeed Horsham fans could argue they’re often expected to win in the county, and they didn’t disappoint as goals from Joe Shelley and Lee Harding set them on their way on their way.
For the hosts, the game marked their debut at Step Four in the Isthmian League, having won the Southern Counties East Premier League last season, there was no doubt that The Oaks were eager to get off to a good start, having thrashed Lordsword 6-1 the previous weekend in the FA Cup.
Perhaps the most noticeable thing before the game began was the impressive new 3G pitch installed since Horsham’s last visit in 2016, but the news that prolific striker Kenny Pogue was injured during the warm up for the hosts would have also not gone unnoticed by Horsham supporters as they took their places to watch the game get underway.
His replacement, Ryan Fowler, was quick to remind everyone that he was equally as dangerous up front, and he had the first chance of the game with just two minutes on the clock, when he managed to barge his way into the box and test goalkeeper Josh Pelling with a shot that was hit directly at the Hornets shot-stopper.
Horsham fashioned a half-chance themselves two minutes later as Chris Smith collected high up inside The Oaks’ own half, but after attempting to shrug his marker off, he could only curl a half-hearted shot wide of goal.
With Horsham beginning to stamp their authority on the hosts, a string of good crosses from the impressive Lee Harding were beginning to cause The Oaks problems as they tried to deal with the aerial threat from Rob O’Toole and Smith, with the latter glancing an effort just wide.
Yet Sevenoaks Town scored their first Bostik League goal and took the lead in the eighteenth minute, as they broke quickly and won a corner. The ball was palmed out by Pelling, but Sawyer reacted quickest to regain possession, turn to face goal and fire in a spectacular drive towards the top corner from twenty yards out.
The joy for the hosts was to be short lived however, as Horsham drew level two minutes later. A long throw in from Daryl Coleman causing confusion in the box, as Smith headed it towards goal, only for Joe Shelley to score with a diving header following a parry from ‘keeper Ben Bridle-Card.
Horsham went in search of another goal to put them in front at the break, and they went closer just after the half-hour mark when Harding’s beautifully floated freekick was headed against the woodwork by Shelley, while the follow up was sent narrowly wide by Smith.
Sevenoaks very nearly took advantage of an implosion at the back a minute later when Pelling’s distribution was called into question. A long throw out to Metcalf was seized upon as the full-back failed to control the ball, and with the ball decisively fed back through the middle to Fowler, there was relief as he managed to scuff his shot when it mattered.
Despite the let-off, Horsham continued to enjoy the better chances as another cross, this time from the left wing was sent over the bar by Harding but the final five minutes saw further chances from both sides as the game became more open.
Dan Cumber managed to trick Harding to leave him on the floor before his low cross was flicked just wide with the outside of Sawyer’s boot while both goalkeepers were needed at each end of the pitch within seconds of each other, first as Bridle-Card pulled off a fine point blank save to deny Charlie Harris tapping in at the near post, while Sevenoaks’ counter required Pelling to block on the line from Fowler’s driven shot from inside the penalty area.
Horsham would once again hit the woodwork a minute before the break, as Will Hoare’s cross-cum-shot dropped suddenly and smacked against the cross-bar before a kinetic half drew to a close.
H/T: Sevenoaks Town 1 Horsham 1
The hosts began the half by threatening to restore their lead within four minutes of the restart when Pelling’s header outside of his area was quickly intercepted by Sawyer who stole possession and crossed in dangerously towards Mikey Dalton who could only head downwards into the ground as the bounce took the ball over the crossbar.
Finally though, having plugged away for so long during the first half, Horsham were rewarded with a goal that put them in front. A cushioned header down by Harris towards O’Toole drew Sevenoaks’ defence out of position, and the former Shoreham and Burgess Hill hitman spotted the run of Harding, on-side and in plenty of space and his dinked ball through was controlled and slotted beyond Bridle-Card with a composed finished.
Still with work to do, Pelling was then required to save at the feet of Sawyer to prevent him pulling the trigger, but with attack the best form of defence, Horsham saw a counter attack break down as Bridle-Card raced off his line to steer the ball away from Harding as he attempted to latch onto a fine through ball that would have surely sealed it for the visitors had he been unable to reach it in time.
With fifteen minutes remaining, Smith found himself guilty of missing a sitter to put the game beyond Town, somehow fluffing it when one-on-one after O’Toole’s cute pass left him with just Bridle-Card to beat, yet instead he fired wide with the goal at his mercy.
It meant for a nervy final few minutes as Sevenoaks tried hard during the final ten minutes to salvage a point as they hemmed Horsham back inside their own half, but despite an additional four minutes of injury time, Dom Di Paola’s side held on to ensure their first league win of the season.
Reporter: Matt Dale
Photographs by John Lines