Horsham U13s travelled to Rustington Otters for this top of the table clash and a repeat of the League Cup final from a few weeks ago. The warning of a wounded Rustington wanting to prove a point was spot on, as they started the game quickly and pressurised the young Hornets at every opportunity. It was difficult for Horsham to play their calm, controlled passing game and within ten minutes Rustington had snuck an early lead. The ball was won in the middle of the park and some hesitancy from the defenders allowed the otters striker to nip in and poke the ball home for a 1-0 lead. Horsham did not panic, the lads tried to play their football but were unable to make the passes count but were holding a good strong defensive line, limiting the attempts to long shots only. As the half wore on Horsham attempted to break the Rustington lines but could not find the telling pass and when the Otters striker broke free of the Hornets backline his shot hit one post, rolled across the line to hit the other post before Monty Watson-Price was able to collect the ball. The half-time whistle could not come quickly enough for Horsham as injuries were making it difficult to manage the tactics and the young squad were having to play in unfamiliar roles. The half drew to a close with Rustington leading 1-0 and the management team had a job to do in calming the boys down and discussing tactics and positions, with the injuries forcing our hand along with boys having to give an immense thirty-five minutes of football.
The second half could not have started any more perfectly. Nathan Jones was able to find Zach Jeanes on the right side of the box where he surged forward to smash the ball past an unsuspecting Rustington keeper, game on at 1-1. This should have spurred the yellows on but it was Rustington who grew in confidence. They were winning battles in the middle of the park and were starting to get a foothold in the game again. Otters were first to the ball and started to ask questions of the Horsham defence once again, but Rylan, Ethan, Cameron and Theo were strong and composed. However, with ten minutes to go the Otters striker got through on goal again, skilfully beat Monty to shoot at the open goal. However the woodwork came to Horsham’s rescue as the ball smashed off the bar into the hands of Monty. Injuries hit again as the Hornets’ left-back had to limp off, forcing one forward to drop into defend and our other striker to drop into left midfield. The odds were against the visitors but these boys do not know when to give up and just defend! The ball was won at the back and a knock on from Nathan again set Zach free behind the Rustington defence to stab home past the onrushing Otters ‘keeper; 2-1 to the Hornets with five minutes to play and down to ten men!
This prompted an attacking formation from Rustington, going 3-4-3, but Horsham flooded the middle area, winning balls, battling for possession at every opportunity and seeing the game out in a professional manner. The referee played three minutes added time but the young Hornets were awesome in their game management, playing the ball long to clear lines, allowing time to regroup into a solid shape, before the referee brought the game to an end with Horsham winning 2-1 and keeping their double chances alive with an opportunity to win the league next Sunday, away v Bognor Regis!
Manager Paul Brown was in a euphoric mood after witnessing a performance of great magnitude. “We had boys out. From a squad of eighteen we managed to field eleven fit players with two substitutes coming back from injury and illness. The boys dug deep and I am very proud of how well they adapted to a difficult situation. To come away with the three points shows how strong the lads are and how much heart they had when it was needed. We set them a challenge and they rose to the occasion. To now have an opportunity to go for the double is fantastic for the squad. We have two games to go and this squad could achieve something special. We keep going, next game is AWAY v Bognor Regis and let’s see how the lads recover from a tough game and niggling injuries”
Horsham: Monty Watson-Price, Finley Duneclift, Danny White, Ethan Nylon-Lwin, Cameron Cox, Rylan Shickell, Luke Harrison, Stan Berry, Nathan Jones, Jack New, Zach Jeanes
Substitutes – Theo Brown and Joe Sherwood
Domino’s Men Of The Match
Zach Jeanes, Rylan Shickell, Nathan Jones