Horsham U12s travelled down to Brighton for another away game in the third round of the County Cup against Coldean Colts. After the amount of rain that had preceded the evening prior, it was uncertain as to the condition the pitch would be in. As it turned out the playing surface was good albeit there was a massive slope to one end which turned out to be a leveller for a team that played in a lower division in the Sussex Sunday League. It was apparent on arrival, due to the sloping pitch, that it would be a game of two halves. As it transpired it was a game of four halves when the game went into extra time!

After both sides had observed a minute’s silence in memory of Armistice Day, the young Hornets kicked off the game playing down the slope and were dominant in the first exchanges. Sam Ayling went close on nine minutes went he was put through and the Coldean ‘keeper made a good save. This  was a regular feature of the first half as any through ball was naturally running through to the ‘keeper unless played on the angle, Sam Ayling and Stanley Hague being the only Horsham players that are quick enough to have any chance of catching up with the pace on the ball, which later proved to be pivotal.

Harry Lawson went close on twelve minutes when his effort was pushed on to the crossbar by the ‘keeper. George Lee was having a good battle with his opposite number and had a good chance to opening the scoring but, after beating a player, he couldn’t quite get the ball out of his feet to strike it with any real power. Elliott Evans, who started the game playing out wide, was causing problems with his pace and trickery, he went close on twenty-one minutes but unfortunately put his shot over the bar. He made up for this two minutes later when a square ball across the box by Stanley Hague was dispatched high in to the roof of the net to give Horsham the lead.

A minute later, as is always the way that you are vulnerable having just scored, Coldean had a free-kick on the edge of the box. Alex Maynard lined up his wall but was forced into making a great save, diving to his right to keep the ball out and keep the Hornets in front. A set piece seemed to be Coldean’s best chance of getting back into the game as Adan Rubin, Jacob Pugh and Luke York were comfortable at the back in this first half with little worrying them defensively.

On the stroke of half-time Horsham had two further chances. Sonny Barton was teed up following a superb passing interchange by Elliott Evans and Stanley Hague only for the midfielder’s shot to hit the woodwork. Bailey Moyo also came close after Harry Lawson had played him in but his effort was well saved by the Coldean ‘keeper.

Half Time: Coldean Colts 0 – 1 Horsham FC Youth

The second half kicked off with Coldean playing down the slope and within five minutes of the restart Coldean were level when the striker was released and rounded Alex Maynard in the Horsham goal and finished from a tight angle. Horsham didn’t dwell on their missed opportunities in the first half and, within three minutes were back in front. Sonny Barton found himself on the edge of the box and curled a fantastic effort over the ‘keeper and into the top corner.

Zack Bull, the Horsham left-back, then threaded a ball ‘through the eye of a needle’ to put in Sam Ayling but unfortunately he fired wide of the target. This would have given Horsham a bit of breathing space going into the closing stages of the match. However, with ten minutes remaining of normal time, Horsham conceded an equaliser. The ball appeared to have gone out of play, deep in the Horsham half, but the referee ignored the linesman’s flag and with the Horsham players having stopped, Coldean took a quick throw, centred the ball for the striker and it was 2-2. A harsh lesson learnt for the young Hornets to ‘play to the whistle!’

What ensued was some time-wasting and multiple substitutions by the home side, much to the frustration of the travelling fans. Penalty kicks was probably their best chance of winning the tie and they appeared to be playing for them at this stage of the game. As extra-time loomed, one more chance fell to Horsham when Harry Lawson went through on goal but unfortunately he couldn’t find a late winner.

Full time: Coldean Colts 2 – 2 Horsham FC Youth

Extra-time found Horsham kicking downhill again. Time wasn’t on their side but it was one-way traffic as you’d expect with the slope. The breakthrough came two minutes before half-time when Sam Ayling was played in and found himself in a foot race with the defender and to catch the ball as it travelled at speed downhill towards the ‘keeper. The striker held off the defender well before toe-poking the ball past the on-rushing ‘keeper to put Horsham in front, much to the delight of his teammates and the Horsham fans and coaching staff.

Extra Time (Half Time): Coldean Colts 2 – 3 Horsham FC Youth

The second half of extra time started and Horsham played out the game brilliantly, playing balls in to the corner to turn the opposition defence and then applying good pressure so they were unable to play out. With resulting throws and keeping the ball in the corner they saw out the result. Luke York won everything in the air at the back from their ‘keeper’s long kicks which really took a lot of pressure off the team.

Extra Time (Full Time): Coldean Colts 2 – 3 Horsham FC Youth

Managers Comments: “A typical cup tie was played out today. On any other pitch, or if we had put away our chances in the first half, I think we would have run out comfortable winners. In the end we were in a battle and it came down to who wanted it more, which is what we told them before extra time. It’s what knockout cup competitions are all about. The boys fought well against an unknown side to us and they would have learnt a lot from the game.”

Squad:  Alex Maynard, Jacob Pugh, Luke York, Elliott Evans, Adan Rubin, Zack Bull, Sonny Barton, Harry Lawson, Bailey Moyo, Stanley Hague, George Lee, Sam Ayling

Scorers: Elliott Evans, Sonny Barton, Sam Ayling

Man of the Match:  Elliott Evans

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