Dominic Di Paola issued an angry post-match dressing down at his players on the pitch as he watched his side concede an injury time equaliser as Kent side Corinthian set up a FA Cup replay at Culver Road on Wednesday evening.
The Hornets had taken the lead thanks to an own goal during the first half, but were made to pay in the fifth minute of injury time for not killing off their hosts when Jack Bath’s precise finish – who scored for both sides – caused Di Paola, and the travelling Horsham faithful to despair as our winless run extended to four matches.
The FA Cup is known for its unpredictable nature, but with The Hornets plying their trade in a step higher than their hosts, the match offered the chance to get back to winning ways, while also securing a place in the next round of a cup competition that still holds memories dear to the club’s fans. But in all honesty, had Horsham won by a single goal, the question would have remained why the team struggled to find any killer instinct in front of goal, as chances continued to break down against a side that often failed to keep their shape and made frequent errors at the back.
Some might well have been able to argue that the state of the pitch may have played its part, with the playing surface resembling more of a ploughed field, in a ground, aptly named after the farm located on site.
The Hornets began the game with a few decent chances, the first of which arrived after six minutes when Daryl Coleman won his side a freekick, that was promptly swung in by Charlie Harris, but despite Rob O’Toole throwing himself at the ball, he managed to nod just wide.
Ten minutes later, a zippy run by Tyrell Richardson-Brown, sprinting down the wing in space was followed by deep cross over for the run of O’Toole, but with the ball hit too heavy, the former Burgess Hill striker could only watch as the ball travelled above his head.
O’Toole then had another chance when the ball broke kindly too him, but his effort from outside the D failed to have enough purchase on it to trouble Aiden Prall who gathered cleanly.
Horsham soon had the ball in the back of the net on twenty-seven minutes when the home side did the hard work for them. Some clever link up play high up the pitch saw Lee Harding return a diagonal pass out towards James McElligott, and the fullback took the ball down towards the byline and sent in a dangerous head height ball towards O’Toole, only for James Bath to accidentally bundle into his own net, with O’Toole sheepishly wondering if he could claim it.
Horsham looked to find a second goal soon after when Richardson-Brown’s glanced header saw him break away from Bath, but his cut back inside the six yard box was turned away by Jack Healey who headed the ball out for a corner, while Lewis Hyde’s header from the resulting set piece was dealt with on the line by Jordan Campbell who was in the right place to head clear as Horsham began to take control.
Neither Richardson-Brown or O’Toole were unable to find themselves in the right position though when a freekick was lumped into the box later on, with the ball whizzing past them as half time began to approach. Unfortunately for O’Toole, he would not make it to the interval as he went down clutching his knee as he chased down a ball into the box, forcing Di Paola to make a straight swap for Chris Smith.
H/T: Corinthian 0 Horsham 1
Within the first minute of the second half, the substitute Smith’s backpass almost led to an equalising goal when Charlie Clover picked up and flicked to Connor Heffernan, but the Hoops striker failed to test Josh Pelling, with a poor effort that went across the face of goal and wide.
Having spent the majority of the first half defending, the home side suddenly began to find more room within Horsham’s own half, with a first time cushioned pass by Clover to Jack Billings blasted woefully over the bar.
The Hoops’ sloppy play in defence however, was being matched by Horsham’s sloppiness up front as Horsham failed to take advantage of lapses in contrentration from the Kent side, and as Smith latched on a ball and slid a pass forward for Richardson-Brown to run at goal, the forward elected to shoot early rather than make up the ground, hitting a disappointing effort that was comfortable for Prall to gather.
Horsham were beginning to look a bit bereft of ideas as the game slowed up, reducing themselves to firing from outside the box, often wide, with Will Hoare doing just that after he regained possession high up the pitch, and Smith smashing well over after he ran at the defence.
Arguably though, the best chance of the second half came to Horsham through another Corinthian mistake. When goalkeeper Prall’s poor freekick was headed away towards Richardson-Brown, the forward was urged to fire in on an open goal with the Hoops shot-stopper in no-mans-land, but instead he failed to use either his pace, or composure, and let the home side off the hook with a hit that was no where near the goal.
A chance to double their lead from a set piece then presented itself to The Hornets when Charlie Harris stood over a dead ball from thirty yards as his side won a freekick straight in front of the goal, but despite his fine strike hit goal bound, Prall’s brilliant diving save ensured it was pushed away.
With the final quarter of an hour looming, the feeling began to grow amongst Horsham supporters that the longer the score continued at 0-1, the more chance the hosts would get to secure a leveller as Lee Harding’s awful attempt saw him clip well wide from Richardson-Brown’s pass, while Harding did manage to force a decent save from Prall, as he bore down on goal and tried to force the ball in at the near post only for Prall to stand his ground and block the shot.
Horsham’s lead continued to look precarious though, as Corinthian knew that just a single chance could force a replay but a low shot from Conor Johnson proved not good enough to cause Pelling any problems. At the other end, Smith had a good chance to put the game to bed as a clearance was hit directly into him, and as he homed in on goal, he was quickly thwarted by Prall who bravely came out to close down the space available to him as the striker hit the ball into the Hoops ‘keeper.
But, within the final minute of five minutes injury time, Corinthian dealt a sucker punch to secure a replay at Culver Road on Wednesday when a direct ball split the Horsham defence down the middle, and Jack Bath raced clear to convert with coolly taken finish.
Reporter: Matt Dale
Images: John Lines