A new season, in a newly named league, an almost new team (six in the starting line-up and two on the bench), two others now permanent who we had on short loan spells last season, and a new coach plus the prospect of the new stadium we are all looking forward to moving into sometime this season. All the ingredients were in the pot to give the supporters hope of a successful start to the season at our Culver Road base against visiting Sittingbourne. However, the last time Horsham came out on top in the first game of a season was back in the 2013/2014 season and today was no different, the Hornets losing 2-1 to the Brickies.
It’s difficult to assess the reasons why we lost but, as happened so often last season, we were extremely slow out of the traps and found ourselves two down within sixteen minutes. Sittingbourne’s Lewis Chambers possessed a very long throw, that constantly troubled the home defence, so it was no surprise when the Brickies new striker Bola Dawodu got a free header in which went narrowly wide of Josh Pelling’s post in the opening stages. In reply, debutant Lee Harding cut in from the right and released a shot but the only thing under threat was the far corner flag.
Sittingbourne’s constant early pressure was rewarded with a goal in the eighth minute. The ball was played down the right, Ira Jackson’s measured cross eluded defenders and attackers alike but Tom Loynes was lurking at the far post and his sprawling header inched its way over the line with Steve Metcalf just unable to keep it out.
Horsham were taking a long time to settle, with several misplaced passes not helping the situation, and in most cases the visitors were able to apply more pressure. Dan Parkinson had a great chance to extend the lead but put his effort wide after being put through by the impressive Dawodu’s accurate pass. Dawodu’s next contribution was critical when he somehow managed to evade Joe Shelley’s tackle, coming away with the ball to slide a pass into the path of Jackson who finished well to put the visitors two goals to the good.
With the game entering the second quarter, Horsham finally started to string a few passes together although several niggly fouls were being committed, with Chris Smith twice being fouled within a minute when in a prominent position, but free-kicks were being well defended and stopper Patrick Lee looked safe punching away when under pressure.
Hornets new boy Joey Taylor was called upon to clear a dangerous through ball from the feet of Jackson but when Chambers’ subsequent long throw was cleared to George Hayward, the ex-Haywards Heath man’s quick thinking enabled him to put a defence-splitting pass through for Chris Smith who, with Lee coming out to narrow the angle, struck the ball perfectly past the keeper to reduce the arrears and open his Horsham account with an assured finish on thirty-five minutes.
Dawodu once again had the beating of Shelley but this time his pass to Jackson found the winger in an offside position and then a half chance fell to Will Hoare but, finding his space closed down, his shot was high and wide.
With the half-time interval approaching right-back Rob Lofting found himself in space, running from his own penalty area and well into Horsham territory but his attempted slide rule pass to Loynes ended up towards the large group of Sittingbourne supporters behind the top goal. There was just time for the visitors to try to increase their lead when Shelley was adjudged to have fouled Dawodu on the left side of the box but the free-kick found its way into Josh Pelling’s gloves and before he could clear his lines the whistle had been blown to end the first half.
H/T Horsham 1 Sittingbourne 2
Horsham started the second period on the attack, with Rob O’Toole’s inch-perfect cross finding Lee Harding attacking the ball at the same time ‘keeper Lee came out to intercept, the two colliding with the free-kick going in favour of the visiting custodian. The home side’s ability to apply more pressure was again being hampered by petty fouls, with the visitors quite confident they had the tools in place to clear free kicks easily.
Shelley came off worse in a clash of heads with Dawodu but the veteran defender was back in place to deflect Parkinson’s free-kick away from danger. Brickies skipper Chris Webber shot wide from a rare second half corner before the introduction of subs around the hour mark included Darren Boswell replacing Hayward and he was immediately into the action; a couple of one touch passes with Smith left Boswell with a shot on target but not accurately or strong enough to trouble Lee. Next it was Boswell teeing up O’Toole but the returning striker planted his effort wide of the post.
With the clock ticking away, central defender Lex Allan conceded a corner but again the visitors were not troubled and cleared the ball, with their time-wasting tactics becoming obvious as every effort was made to protect the lead. Several home corners were wasted or cleared but one effort almost brought an equaliser when the ball beat the front post markers but was just out of O’Toole’s reach. A Harding header from Smith’s cross was straight at the keeper and his follow-up was blocked and went out for a corner from which Charlie Harris found Shelley at the back post but his powerful header was blocked and cleared.
With ten minutes to go, the visitors replaced Dawodu with Johan Caney Bryan. Pelling was called into action, diving full length to hold a Jackson effort, Daryl Coleman was booked for a foul with Parkinson only hitting the wall from the resulting free-kick, and another Chambers long throw caused panic in the home defence with Pelling claiming the ball at the second attempt. At the other end, Lee made two vital interceptions from crosses by Harding and Taylor as the Hornets were desperately trying to find a goal from somewhere.
Hoare and skipper Metcalf made way for the fresh legs of Tyrell Richardson-Brown and George Landais with only five minutes left, while Sittingbourne also replaced Tom Fagg with Khalil McFarlane. Landais was making ground when the tiring Loynes hauled him to the deck, with the resulting caution his last involvement in the game as he was replaced Izzy Adebayo. Harris took the free-kick but Harding could only plant his header into Lee’s hands.
With referee Mr Wells signalling four extra minutes there was little time for Horsham to change the result and the Brickies played the ball into the corners, making sure the three points on offer would go back to Kent with Shelley’s frustration seeing him booked right at the end. Landais had the final kick of the match but his shot was too high.
Report by Jim Bravery
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