Progress was assured in the FA Trophy this afternoon at a chilly Culver Road as The Hornets brushed aside Bostik Premier Division side Corinthian-Casuals to secure our place in the Second Qualifying Round draw on Monday.
Despite Horsham’s rich vein of form of late, the visit of Casuals appeared – on paper at least – that Horsham would have it all to do against a side who have often come off the better in recent years given previous meetings between the two sides, yet Dom Di Paola’s side simply dominated this game and at times largely embarrassed their guests with their slick movement and attacking prowess with George Hayward and Tyrell Richardson-Brown particularly impressive.
Quite what former England cricketers and Casuals supporters Mickey and Alec Stewart would have made of their teams performance heading back to Surrey remains to be seen, as in truth had Horsham scored four or more goals the visiting fans would have been hard pushed to argue against the manner of their defeat given that The Hornets were simply too good on the day as they produced another display to crank up the feel good factor for Horsham fans who are starting to get rather excited at what this team might deliver with the squad oozing confidence and a sense of togetherness on the pitch.
Striker Chris Smith set the tone early on for the proceedings, when in just the sixth minute he got himself into a good position and turned his marker, before hitting a rising shot over the bar. A minute later, a clever turn in possession from Richardson-Brown allowed him to break and fizz over a low cross that was just overcooked as it flashed past Rob O’Toole inside the box.
With Horsham asking questions of the Casuals defence, a super ball into the box from Hayward was hit goalbound by Smith, only for it to be turned away by some last ditch defending, yet thirty seconds later, Horsham had the ball in the net. Hayward once again proved to be the architect delivering a precise cross into the penalty area that was met by a trademark Joe Shelley header who positioned himself to guide the ball in.
Casuals struggled to respond, and when they did on twenty-four minutes through a shot from Mu Maan that was deflected off Shelley and subsequently cleared, Horsham broke immediately as they launched a counter attack with Smith racing at the defence and slipping it over for O’Toole, however visiting shot-stopper Bradley Comins was quick off his line to smother bravely with the former Shoreham and Burgess Hill hitman closing in.
With Horsham playing some great football and reducing their opponents to passengers as they bossed the midfield, it was of little shock to anyone that they doubled their lead on the half hour mark. With the defence all over the place O’Toole had time to cushion down a cross inside the area on his chest, and despite the touch threatening to take the ball away from him, he showed excellent composure to prod in past a helpless Comins.
Despite being in cruise control, Corinthian-Casuals were offered a route back into the game when three minutes after going two goals up, referee Mr. Ian Fissenden had little choice but to point to the penalty spot when Shelley upended Jordan Clarke’s run inside the box with a clumsy body-check. Warren Mfula’s effort was decent enough as he looked to play Pelling the wrong way, yet the Horsham ‘keeper was equal to it, diving down to his left-hand side as he got both gloves on it.
Defender Reece Hannigan went close with a header wide later on, yet Horsham continued to look the more likely of the two sides to score with Dean Lovegrove attempting to play in Smith in a dangerous position, only for his low centre ball to be ushered out.
Comins almost cost his side another goal two minutes before half time when he dawdled on the ball and allowed O’Toole to dispossess him, yet the challenge took the ball away from goal as he failed to punish Casuals further.
H/T: Horsham 2 Corinthian-Casuals 0
With Casuals manager James Bracken clearly disappointed with his team’s efforts, he withdrew Hamilton Antonio and Jack Tucker for Maxwell Oldham and former Hornet Hakeem Adelakun yet Horsham continued where they left off.
With five minutes of the half underway, a corner floated in was again met in the air by Shelley, where it was turned away by both Coskun Ekim and Oldham, with Smith unable to force it in on the line.
Still Horsham came at them, as Richardson-Brown squared it towards Smith, who lost out to Hannigan at the near post, as the defender did enough to put him off. O’Toole then went close with an attempted lob as he looked to kill the game off, but while the effort appeared to be looking to clip the top of the cross bar, Comins took no chances with a fingertip save to make sure.
Casuals were indeed leading a charmed life as they somehow prevented Horsham from going further ahead, as Casuals defender Ekim nearly kicked into his own net, only for the ball to rebound back off Smith, however Ekim recovered quickly to block the follow up from Shelley. The resulting corner should have yielded another goal when Lovegrove’s sidefooted attempt was saved by Comins and Smith put wide from the resulting scramble.
With the home fans wondering how their side had somehow not managed to score more goals, they might have thought they had the chance to add to their lead when Richardson-Brown was sent tumbling over inside the box as Ekim appeared to play the man and not the ball, yet Mr. Fissenden considered the appeal and decided to wave play to continue.
The decision simply made no difference as Horsham continued to boss the game and their cause was made easier with six minutes of normal time remaining when Thomas Smith hurt himself after colliding with Richardson-Brown and had to go off, with Casuals having already used up all their substitutions leaving them with ten men.
Clarke’s fierce drive from thirty yards on the stroke of injury time was the closest all game that the visitors went during open play as Pelling beat the shot away with his fists, yet just when the Hornets supporters where commenting that the result would have flattered their opponents, substitute Jack Brivio, who had only just been introduced, wrapped up the game in the forth minute of stoppage time when he rounded off a move by Richardson-Brown who evaded two men before drilling in a low cross that Brivio swept in.
Horsham now make two trips to Kent within the space of a week as we visit Ramsgate on Tuesday evening, and then Ashford United in the league, while we await news of our opponents in the Second Qualifying Round on Monday.