Horsham suffered late heartbreak at the hands of local Sussex rivals Three Bridges, as our winning run in the Bostik League South East came to an abrupt end.
A win for Dom Di Paola’s side would have taken The Hornets up to second and above Hastings United, and indeed the league table suggested that Horsham could go into the game against fifteenth placed Bridges as favourites. However the hosts certainly had other idea, themselves on an impressive three match winning run supported by the goalscoring prowess of striker Connor French, and it was he who sealed the win for his side, grabbing both goals to take his personal tally to seven goals from his last three matches to leave Horsham fans disappointed as they headed back down the A264.
In stark contrast to the thriller played out at Hythe Town on Saturday, goals aside, this was a game that hardly justified going out and missing two big Champions League ties as Barcelona took on Tottenham Hotspur, and Liverpool entertained Napoli, and as the first half got underway, it quickly became clear that Three Bridges versus Horsham would struggle to offer up many moments worth savouring.
Despite some early promise from Horsham on a bumpy pitch, the visitors struggled to unlock Bridges’ defence, with Will Hoare unable to find any killer passes, however the first – and a rare chance of note – did present itself in the eighth minute when Ibby Akanbi broke away down the right flank and crossed towards French, but the striker’s flicked header backwards whistled past the back post.
The opening twenty minutes was littered with errors from both sides as passes constantly failed to reach intended targets, but when a sloppy pass out from defence was gifted to Chris Smith, former Horsham goalkeeper James Shaw reacted quickly to come out from his area and clear in no nonsense style.
Despite some hustle and bustle from French to try and work a chance for his side, neither came anywhere near to scoring as the half progressed, while Charlie Harris summed up the first forty-five minutes near the interval when he chose to shoot from twenty-five yards out, but he got it horrendously wrong and blasted the ball into orbit.
Horsham did have a half chance though, minutes before half-time, when they intercepted high upfield and broke in a two-on-two situation, with Rob O’Toole on the ball and Smith in support, but the chance soon broke down as O’Toole gave the ball away to bring a forgettable first half to a close.
H/T: Three Bridges 0 Horsham 0
In spite of the lack of chances, and with neither goalkeeper tested, it took just seven minutes of the second half for the game to yield it’s first goal. Much of Horsham’s success in recent weeks has been accredited to a robust defensive unit, yet Bridges unlocked it with ease when a defence splitting ball played in French who cleverly waltzed beyond Joe Shelley and slotted in off the base of the post, past Josh Pelling.
It could have easily been 2-0, minutes later. With Horsham’s defence wildly caught open and stretched, French’s ball over to a spare John Ufuah forced Pelling out to smother at his feet in a super block to prevent his side from falling further behind.
The hosts were enjoying the better chances with Horsham looking vulnerable, and a goalline headed clearance by Steve Metcalf prevented Lee Hall from scoring, while later on Akanbi blasted well over after the ball had been clawed out to him from Pelling struggling to deal with a dangerous cross.
Horsham finally mustered a response on sixty-six minutes. Lee Harding’s zipped ball across the face of the box teed up Smith who ran onto the ball from six yards with just Shaw to beat, but the Bridges’ shot-stopper pulled off a wonderful point blank save with his right leg to deny him a certain goal.
At the other end, Pelling plucked out a glancing header from Bridges main man French and, within seconds, Horsham drew level. Dorking Wanderers loanee Keiran Lavery took on a shot from the edge of the area that bounced up off the ground and forced Shaw into a parried save, but Smith’s predatory instincts saw him react quickest to tuck home the rebound.
A flurry of substitutions for both teams followed as the game appeared to be heading for a stalemate, with each side no doubt happy to settle for a point. A pot shot from Akanbi went wide and a flashed effort was driven past the far post by Toyo Adeshina and then, with a minute of normal time remaining, French once again proved the hero for his side. Taking down Darryl Siaw’s long ball with a deft first touch to take him away from his marker, he prodded in beyond Pelling with his second.
It was a simple piece of skill and clinical finish that had been lacking all game, but one that would hurt the visitors and see their winning run cruelly come to an end.
Horsham take on Cray Wanderers at Culver Road on Saturday looking to bounce back against the league leaders.
Reporter: Matt Dale