Almost a quarter of a century has passed since Deal Town inflicted a 6-1 defeat on the Hornets and, for some of us, the memories of that September afternoon at Queen Street still linger. There have been worse days than that in the years since, and many, many better ones of course, but victory for Dom Di Paola’s side this weekend would go some way towards healing those long-standing wounds.
While defeat against Kent clubs is nothing out of the ordinary for Horsham FC, we do have a good record in the FA Cup with Lordswood, Sittingbourne, Tonbridge Angels, Folkestone Invicta, Slade Green, Erith Town, VCD Athletic and Faversham Town all beaten in recent years and the Hornets will travel east, hopeful of adding the Southern Counties East League side to that list.
With ten goals in their last two matches, Di Paola’s side are not short of firepower but the manager admits that he’d settle for a 1-0 scoreline if it meant progressing to the 1st Qualifying Round. “It’s important that we get through this one, for the kudos as well as the financial rewards,” he said. “It’s all about being in the hat for the next round and if it means bringing them back to our place on Monday then we’ll settle for that but everyone wants to do well in the FA Cup so I’ll take any kind of win. It’s a tough draw for us, though. I expect Deal to be the best team we’ve faced this season. I’ve never played a bad team from the Kent League and, in my mind, its probably the strongest in the Southern pyramid, stronger than the Wessex, Combined Counties and Sussex County. I’ve got an idea what they’re all about and, from what I’m told, they are a strong side with some big boys and will probably be the most physical team we’ve come up against so far. The boys will be up for the challenge, though. Everyone has their own FA Cup stories and they will want to create their own.”
Deal have already seen off Sussex opposition, beating Worthing United 7-1 after a replay in the previous round, but have not found things quite so straightforward in their own league where they currently sit in fourteenth place after a win and two defeats. After an opening day 4-1 victory over Fisher, ‘The Fivers’ failed to score against either Lordswood or Erith & Belvedere, and were goalless on their trip to Worthing.
If Saturday’s match ends in a draw, the replay will be held at Goring’s Mead on Monday, kick-off 3pm, with the planned meeting with Loxwood postponed to later in the season.