Chris Smith struck two minutes from time to secure Horsham’s passage to the Third Qualifying Round of the Buildbase FA Trophy against Bostik Premier side Potters Bar Town to keep up The Hornets impressive form and, at the same time, claim another scalp from a team a division higher than ourselves as Dom Di Paola’s side once more showed no sign of letting the momentum slip away.
Once again Horsham left it late. Having scored with the final kick of the game a week ago at Ashford United in the league, Smith’s late goal proved decisive with the game appearing to be heading for a goalless stalemate and a replay at The Scholars’ Parkfield Ground on Tuesday until the former South Park striker swept in Tyrell Richardson-Brown’s cross to the delight of the home faithful.
Cup run and financial gain aside, fans will be eagerly pointing to the form book that shows The Hornets have now won seven games from their last ten, while the never-say-die attitude of Di Paola’s squad was again evident in this latest victory.
It was a win that was in no way a masterclass or showcase of footballing ability, yet on an afternoon in which football remembered the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, it was fitting that the two teams played out a gritty, if attritional, game of football that would be decided by the finest of margins.
Horsham quickly took the game to their visitors, showing disregard to their league standings and quickly set about testing The Scholars’ defence when Rob O’Toole was slipped though behind the defence in the seventh minute, but a super block from defender Sean Grace saw the ball out for a corner as he timed his challenge to perfection.
Grace was again called into action four minutes later, this time to dispossess Smith who had been played in by Richardson-Brown thanks to a delicate pass, but The Scholars man once again got everything right, sliding in inside the box before the Hornets hitman could pull the trigger.
Richardson-Brown’s darting run around the edge of the eighteen yard box allowed the forward to create space for himself as he shaped to shoot, but his effort drew a comfortable diving save from Berkley Laurencin. The visiting goalkeeper was forced into another save on eighteen minutes as Horsham continued to enjoy the better chances, palming away a stinging shot from Steve Metcalf who elected to have a go from twenty yards out as The Hornets continued to ask all the questions early on.
Despite the early pressure, Horsham failed to make it count and, having weathered the storm, the guests gradually grew more into the game and began to impose themselves without really putting Horsham under any pressure as the tie became bogged down in midfield, and with neither side wanting to blink first, the first half drew to a close.
H/T: Horsham 0 Potters Bar Town 0
The chess-like manner of the game continued, as both teams began to sense that the first goal would probably be enough to hold onto for the victory, but after the visiting side had defended gallantly during the early exchanges of the first half, it was the turn for Horsham to deal with the threat of Bradley Sach whose first touch from Andrew Lomas’ centre inside the box allowed Dylan Merchant to challenge and clear, while up the other end of the pitch, Richardson-Brown’s break away into the visiting box almost found joy when he squared for Smith, who pirouetted and shot on the spin off the shins off Laurencin.
Yet chances continued at a premium for either side and when one presented itself to Lomas, who ran onto a loose ball to shoot from distance, his woeful attempt was struck into orbit and invited ridicule from the Horsham faithful behind the opposite goal.
Smith attempted to force things when he steamed into The Scholars’ area just after the hour mark and fired a shot that deflected off Grace that was easily gathered by Laurencin, but arguably the best chance of the game so far came to Potters Bar three minutes later when Lomas’ dangerous cross flashed in front of goal and in front of Dernell Wynter, when the slighted of touches would have surely resulted in a goal.
With both teams looking to snatch the winner in the final fifteen minutes, Jack Brivio’s travels took him around the edge of the box as he threatened to shoot, but he deftly backheeled for Dean Lovegrove to smash goalwards, however his deflected effort failed to trick Laurencin who saved smartly.
The visitors then added to the tension for the home supporters when Sandro Costa Dias Fernandes hit a fierce shot over the bar, while Josh Pelling was eventually tested with the guests’ first real shot on target when Lomas’ rasping shot had him parrying up and over the bar.
The prospect of a midweek trip round the M25 looming, it was down to Smith to settle things there and then. Steve Metcalf’s long ball out from defence was pumped up to Lee Harding to held up the ball and flicked on to Richardson-Brown, the winger’s control to take down the ball was sublime, and as he raced away with Bar’s defence struggling to recover, his low cross set up Smith to finish off with the inside of his boot to snatch the victory.
However, the win was assured by a crucial save from Pelling a minute after the restart, who saw Dias Fernandes’ rifled attempt late on, and he produced a brilliant stop low down to ensure The Hornets’ name goes into the hat in Monday’s draw.
Reporter: Matt Dale
Match photos by John Lines
Match sponsor: David Hillier