“We just seem to be getting better and better with each game!” was the verdict from Horsham supporter Mark Wells, who summed up this game perfectly after watching The Hornets dismantle high-flying VCD Athletic 4-0 at Culver Road.
He, and his follow Horsham supporters will have plenty to smile about as a week on from shocking Bostik Premier League side Potters Bar Town 1-0 to progress in the FA Trophy, Dom Di Paola’s side found another level to record a fourth win on the spin, and they did it in style against third placed VCD who had scored twelve goals in their last two games.
Horsham have played out some entertaining games this season already, but this was without doubt, the best performance of the season yet. The visitors were largely outplayed and out-battled by Horsham, who nullified the threat of veteran striker Charlie MacDonald and scored twice in each half to send The Vickers back to Kent with their tail between their legs.
In fact, the only downside to this game was the low turnout who attended, with the crowd of 152 there to witness the game despite the recent appeals to encourage supporters to come down and attend games at our temporary home at Lancing. For anyone reading on thinking about getting down to Culver Road, now is the time as if this form continues, it will be hard to continue the superlatives to describe how well this team are playing at the moment.
Statistically, Horsham have now won seven games from their last ten. Scoring twenty-one goals and conceding seven. They have kept five clean sheets in the last six of those games, however bigger tests await them with the visit next Sunday of National League South Side Bath City in the FA Trophy, but for the watching scouts observing, they will have certainly noticed the impressive performances of a squad high on confidence and morale, and in particular a standout display from captain Jack Brivio who ran the show in midfield.
It could have started and ended very differently had The Vickers taken their first chance of the game on four minutes. A run through the midfield by Aymun El-Moyhalbel was unsuccessfully cleared by Dylan Merchant, and the loose ball was seized upon by Alastair Gordon who struck wide of the goal. From the restart, Horsham opened the scoring. Having played out from the back, Brivio was given acres of space in midfield to roam forward with the ball as VCD stood off him, and despite the invitation to shoot, he rolled it forward for Chris Smith who split the defence and couldn’t miss as he tucked it away.
Nine minutes later, Horsham doubled their lead. A lovely ball was knocked on by Steve Metcalf for Tyrell Richardson-Brown to chase down, and as he got to the byline, the forward clipped in a low cross that was beautifully side footed in by Rob O’Toole on his right foot, sending the ball behind his standing left leg and into the net.
Threatening to go further ahead, Horsham should have scored a third inside of twenty minutes as Charlie Harris pumped a long ball down field that was taken down by Brivio, despite losing possession, the ball found its way to Smith who failed to capitalise, curling around Mant but past the post when he should have really buried it.
The Vickers were by now struggling to cope with the fluidity of Horsham’s movement and high tempo, with a desperate attempt from Gordon lashing over from distance, however right on the half hour mark, Josh Pelling’s diving save prevented Ali Fuseini from clawing one back when he poked goalwards from six yard out.
Fuseini was then inches away from scoring three minutes later, when he failed to climb high enough to connect to a dangerous cross towards him waiting at the far post as Horsham showed a rare glimpse of vulnerability at the back.
The Vickers were unable to add to the pressure on Horsham’s goal as The Hornets quickly got back on top and continued to create the better chances, this time with Harvey Sparks’ teasing cross eluding O’Toole at the far post.
O’Toole’s composure then let him down when he telepathically linked up with Smith inside the box and collected his pass, only to snatch at the chance and fire into the side netting, while Mant produced routine stops before halftime against George Haywards and Charlie Harris as Horsham failed to add a third goal before the interval.
H/T: Horsham 2 VCD Athletic 0
Predicably, the visitors emerged for the second half determined the throw everything at Horsham to rescue the game, as they set about drawing Horsham deeper back into their own half, and they nearly halved the arrears ten minutes after the restart when former Brentford and MK Dons striker Charlie MacDonald collected inside the box, only for a super tackle by Harris ensuring Pelling’s goal would not be breached.
But smack bang on the hour mark, Horsham killed off any chance of a comeback with a third goal. A long ball sent into the box was only half-cleared by full-back Jake McIntyre who was more concerned about Smith’s whereabouts, yet with no one to pick up O’Toole, the striker netted his second of the game pummelling into the roof of the net.
The Vickers down and out, Horsham went for the throat to make the score line all the more emphatic as the guests gave up the fight. Another through ball dissected the defence as Harris drove beyond the defence and went for the far post across the face of Mant, but he put it inches wide, while Horsham’s afternoon was made all the more easier with little over fifteen minutes to go when Jack Steventon scythed down O’Toole after he had turned the defender and after a brief collection of thoughts, referee Casimir Nzenga showed The Vickers man a straight red for being the last man.
With VCD Athletic’s defence now stretched further and having to continue to deal with the tenacity of Horsham’s attack, it could have easily been four goals to the good when George Hayward strolled forward with a threatening run, but failing to get past his marker, he chose to lay off wide to substitute Will Hoare who fired directly at Mant at his near post.
Hoare thought he had scored minutes after when he tucked home a rebound from Mant who saved at point blank from a fierce shot from Smith, but was denied by the linesmans raised flag in what appeared a harsh decision.
Hoare would indeed get on the scoresheet regardless as he wrapped up the game eight minutes from time when he showed excellent control to bring down Joe Shelley’s long ball over the top ball out from defence, racing away one-on-one against Mant before rounding The Vickers goalkeeper and firing into an empty net.
With Horsham now toying with their guests and lining up to shoot, Mant produced a good stop to keep out an effort from Richardson-Brown while the shot-stopper was grateful to the woodwork coming to his aid a minute before full time when Sparks was allowed to race through unchallenged and smack a fierce drive off the top of the crossbar.
Horsham fans will now wonder if they can continue this kind of form when we entertain Bath City next Sunday in the FA Trophy, but on the basis of this kind of performance, they will fear no one.