Horsham’s quest to win the Velocity Cup is over at just the second hurdle, as Bracknell Town secured progression thanks to a 3-1 win as they dumped The Hornets out in an entertaining game at Larges Lane.
With back-to-back defeats in the league, Dom Di Paola would have gone into the game hoping the knock out competition would have been the chance to get back to winning ways against a side who were promoted from the Hellenic League at the end of last season, yet as they did on Saturday, The Hornets were up against a side who had yet to lose so far this season after making a formidable start to life in the Bostik League South Central, sitting pretty at the top after four games.
Horsham supporters making the first trip to Bracknell since 2004 were wary of the threat The Robins possessed, indeed the home side had also knocked out Bostik Premier League side Kingstonian in the previous round, and they continued their excellent start to the season by dumping their counterparts from the Bostik South East League out with a slick performance that at times showcased their fitness levels and talent and consigned Horsham to a third successive defeat.
Barely thirty seconds were on the clock when Bracknell orchestrated the first chance of the match. A lightning quick run on the wing allowed Sebastian Bowerman to get away and send in a cross, but striker Adam Cornell couldn’t quite get on the end of the delivery, while Joe Grant sent the ball into the side netting as he followed up near the back post.
Less than ten minutes later, Cornell’s intelligent flick out to Bowerman set the rapid winger free to cut inside with a darting run, and as the midfielder decided to go it alone curling a rasping shot inches wide, Josh Pelling shot a relieved look as he despairingly dived as the ball sailed past the post.
Horsham soon had a chance of their own when a cool pass found Lee Harding in a decent position for a shot, the forward hit goalwards with a first time effort only for Chris Grace to expertly tip the ball away with a super outstretched save to deny him.
With Horsham already warned of the threat Bracknell possessed, it was of little surprise that the hosts broke the deadlock with Bowerman again playing a pivotal role when he sent over a deep cross into the box that was met with a looping header by Gavin James that beat Pelling.
Charlie Harris looked to drag Horsham level with a dipping effort that skimmed the the roof of the net, yet it was Bracknell who continued to look the more dangerous of the two side when another inquisitive attack by the home side almost led to a second goal but for Pelling blocking Cornell’s shot as he instinctively raised his hands to claw away the attempted lob.
A magnificent piece of individual skill by Tyrell Richardson-Brown impressed both sets of supporters as he gracefully pirouetted on a six-pence to leave his marker chasing dust, but his delivery let him down as his final ball was comfortably headed away by Joe Gater.
Once again, The Robins hovered around Horsham’s box, with another cross pumped in by Bowerman, and turned away by Pelling, but with the ball coming to Grant, a timely block by Lewis Hyde rescued the situation with the Hornet’s ‘keeper stranded.
Grant went close with a good effort after he saw space open up in front of him, smacking a fierce shot from thirty yards low down that required Pelling to turn away for a corner but The Hornets held on to half time with Harris forcing another good block from Grace who pulled off an acrobatic diving save to ensure his side left the pitch with the lead intact.
H/T: Bracknell 1 Horsham 0
Having worked so hard in the first half, the question on whether the home side would be able to sustain the level of intensity on a Tuesday evening so early into the season was the question Horsham fans pondered as they hoped for a turnaround as the second period got underway.
With the home side looking a bit more lethargic, The Hornets almost went close to levelling the contest early on as the second half got going, when Richardson-Brown’s dribble inside the area drew the defence out of position, and as he slipped the ball to Harding, the midfielder appeared odds-on to score, but fired inches wide with a first time effort.
With Horsham growing into the game, the equaliser came soon after. A fine ball out from midfield released Richardson-Brown who beat the offside trap and sprinted clear, but his low slotted shot just lacked the precision and pace to beat Grace who could only get a hand to it, however he was powerless to prevent O’Toole from rushing in to convert the rebound.
Despite Horsham trying to crank up the pressure as they sought to take the lead for the first time, Bracknell instead retook the lead thanks to a well worked set-piece after The Hornets gave away a cheap free kick. From twenty-five yards, James McClurg sent in an inswinger into the box and it was powerfully guided into the net by Cornell who rose to meet the ball with a bullet header.
Horsham looked to respond to the setback as Harris curled a freekick around the wall forcing a difficult save for Grace who managed to claw it away, and they again went close when O’Toole’s misguided header could not be turned in from close range by Hyde who headed upwards allowing Grace to pluck the ball from the air.
With Bracknell now using the counter to attempt to pick Horsham off, Bowerman nearly secured the win with a shot from outside the box that required a deflection and fizzed wide of the post.
But with nine minutes remaining, Horsham fell apart at the back as they struggled to clear their lines, Metcalf’s header was only half cleared and as it came to Cornell, the striker went for goal where a claim for handball was made as Dean Lovegrove blocked, but with the referee allowing play to continue, Kane Fiztgerald reacted quickest to keep the ball alive, and he took full advantage of the mayhem at the back rifling in to kill off Dom Di Paola’s side.
Reporter: Matt Dale
Images: John Lines