The Horsham Legends XI won a dramatic penalty shoot-out against Dom Di Paola’s XI following an equally-exciting 3-3 draw in this afternoon’s one-off match to remember the life of our beloved president, Frank King, and his seven decade involvement with the Hornets. Over thirty of Horsham’s ‘legends’ from the last two decades took to The Camping World Community Stadium pitch, in front of a three-figure crowd, in what was sure to be an emotional afternoon for anyone associated with Horsham Football Club, following Frank’s sad passing just weeks before the club took possession of its new home ground.
Fittingly the afternoon commenced with the boardroom in our glistening new clubhouse being officially dedicated to Frank, in the presence of his wife Pauline and daughter Julie and other family members. Hornets Chairman Kevin Borrett spoke of his, and the club’s, delight at formerly marking Frank’s contribution with an ‘enduring reminder’ of his lifetime’s selfless dedication to the football club, making reference to the numerous tributes that had poured in since his untimely death. Frank was the ‘epitome of the club’, Kevin continued, forging the basis of it becoming known as ‘the Friendly Club’ and that his legacy would live on through the ‘terrific team of volunteers and fantastic group of supporters’.
Such was the affection for Frank among players past and present that most needed no second invitation to give up their Sunday to take in Horsham’s new facilities, not to mention an opportunity for them to play alongside former team-mates who they will have shared a dressing room with during their time with the Yellows.
First team manager Dom Di Paola gathered a squad of players who have played under him (or worked alongside in the dugout!) during the first five years of his spell as our manager, including Alex Duncan, Darren Boswell, Adam Hunt and Evan Archibald who were all key figures of the side who successfully guided us back into the Isthmian League in 2016 by clinching the Southern Combination title. In addition, some of the more recent Isthmian teams featured in the match, such as fans’ favourite Tony Nwachukwu, Steve Metcalf, Scott Harris, Tom Frankland and goalkeepers Michael Hunter and Josh Pelling. Completing the Di Paola XI was Dom himself, joined by some of his colleagues including current coaches Adam Westwood and Jimmy Punter, former right-hand man Ian Browne and a handful of our youth team coaches.
Meanwhile club committee chairman Sean Bravery, and his appointed management team of Mark Barrett and Rob Frankland, pulled together an equally impressive squad, many of whom were prominent in our famous 2007/08 season where we bid a sad farewell to our former Queen Street home and also enjoyed the excitement of an historic run to the second round of the FA Cup and those two unforgettable matches with Swansea City. Making up the fifteen man squad was U23 coach Mark Hawthorne, ex-goalkeeper Ian Chatfield, Match of the Day goal-of-the-month star Nigel Brake, penalty hero Lewis Taylor, two-goal Lee Farrell, Ian Payne, Matt Geard, Eddie French, Tommy Graves, Lee Carney, John Kirby, John Westcott, Michael Death, Stuart Myall and Jacob Mingle.
With plenty of flowing football played at a reasonable tempo, the Horsham XI took the lead with a sublime finish from Payne, who cut in from the right flank and curled his shot from outside the eighteen yard box into the top left hand corner beyond the helpless Hunter. They went close to doubling their lead when Carney teed up the energetic Brake, who failed to keep his ferocious strike from sailing high over the bar, whilst Taylor’s header from a corner was cleared out of the six yard box. The second goal eventually came their way when Brake’s whipped ball in from the left-hand side was well left by Kirby, allowing Mingle to bring the ball under control and smash it into the net. Farrell also saw a long range effort fly wide after he latched onto a through ball and skipped past youth coach, Sam Jones. The youth coaches were prominent in some of Di Paola’s XI’s best moves and came close to pulling a goal back just before half time when a fine strike crashed off of the crossbar.
Both teams continued to play with plenty of intensity after the interval and the Horsham XI once again came close when a sweet backheel from Mingle resulted in Taylor lashing the ball over the goal. However, the Di Paola XI halved the deficit when a darting run down the left from Nwachukwu saw him cut the ball back to Browne, who proved he couldn’t only talk the talk by applying a composed finish beyond Chatfield. Roles were then reversed as Brown sent Nwachukwu through on goal but the flying winger couldn’t find the net from a tight angle. At the other end, Taylor’s cross met the head of Mingle but the ball cannoned back off the woodwork before, moments later, Nwachukwu spread to play to Archibald who forced his shot into the back of the net to bring the scores level. The Horsham XI looked to retake the lead when Carney was thwarted by one of last year’s play-off stars, Pelling, to keep the scores tied. However, in what looked to be an incredible comeback by Dom Di Paola’s XI, a corner from the left was met by Archibald, who rose above Kirby to nod the ball beyond Chatfield to take the lead with around ten minutes left on the clock.
As Di Paola himself entered the fray, he found that the Horsham XI weren’t finished yet as Payne went close to recreating his earlier effort after Graves found him in the centre of the park, but once again Pelling showed his quality by tipping the attempt behind for a corner. With just seconds remaining, Carney picked up the ball and surged past the defender before looping a shot beyond the stranded Pelling just moments before the full-time whistle was blown to send the match to a penalty shootout.
Spot-kicks were taken by the likes of Hunter, Hunt, Myall, Nwachukwu, Brake and Death with various degrees of success before, with the shoot-out tied at two each after eight penalties, Archibald was denied by an excellent save from Chatfield who got down low to his right to parry the ball away and see the Horsham XI seal victory.
There are many people to thank for helping to make this a hugely enjoyable afternoon which would have certainly bought a smile to Frank’s ever-beaming face. The club would like to extend their gratitude to youth manager, Alex Bethell, who kindly refereed t he game, Steph Apps and Andi Marfleet who acted as physios for both teams, Sean Bravery and Dom Di Paola whose tireless efforts meant we had two full, high calibre squads, both sets of players who put on a terrific performance for a great cause and all the Horsham fans who turned out to support two great causes close to Frank’s heart, Diabetes UK and the Shooting Star Children’s Hospice and who gave generously to the bucket collection during the match.
However, it feels fitting that we should end by showing our huge appreciation to the president himself, without whose tireless efforts over many decades, the club would not be in the positive state that it is in today. So tonight, we raise a glass to Frank King. Our president.
Report by Dan Butler
Photo gallery below by John Lines