It was two goals apiece for Horsham’s Archie Goddard and Lee Harding last night as the Hornets edged a thrilling ding-dong encounter at the Jubilee Field to get their Bluefin Development League programme off to a flying start.
Showing real determination and character, three times Mark Hawthorne’s fledgling side battled back from a goal down to eventually earn a hard fought victory, thanks to a last-gasp winner from Harding who was getting some much-needed minutes as he worked his way back to match fitness.
Three Bridges started the brighter with leggy winger Vincent Muwanga, who had bags of pace, causing problems down the right flank and it was from his run and cross in the 5th minute that the hosts went ahead when striker Benkerson Stride calmly slotted the ball home from close range. Another well worked move, this time from the left wing, saw the home side go close with a shot that Hornets’ ‘keeper Jack Gunn was relieved to see fly just over the bar .
Horsham’s first chance came in the 10th minute when a cross from the right was just slightly over hit and Harding was unable to get on the end of it. Bridges should have extended their lead, just after, when the Hornets defence was caught napping once again but the shot from striker Youcef Azzouz, a first team squad player for Bridges, was blocked for a corner. At this stage the home side were controlling the game, enjoying more possession, and the Hornets were struggling to stay in the match .
It was a huge boost therefore when, against the run of play, Horsham won a corner on the right. Harding took it and swung the ball in, with pace, towards the penalty spot where unmarked striker Goddard was lurking and he climbed high, somehow hanging there for a split second, enabling him to nod his powerful header downwards into the net giving the home ‘keeper no chance. However the home side did not take long to get their noses back in front and, after allowing a couple of chances to go begging, restored their advantage in the 20th minute through a fine left foot strike from Jack Nicholls from just outside the box.
It was important that the Hornets kept in the game and a thumping late challenge by the Hornets left back Kieran Britland, that left both himself and his opponent rolling in a crumpled heap in some discomfort, sent out a clear message that the visitors were up for the challenge. Just on the half hour mark a long, powerful, run from Harding should have been stopped but he kept going and although his shot was hit straight at Ryan Richards, the Bridges ‘keeper fumbled the ball into the net. It was a soft goal for the home side to concede that enabled Horsham to go in at half time all square at 2-2.
After the break Horsham stepped up a gear and looked more organised, with plenty of talking and encouragement amongst the team; our new acquisition, ex-Bridges defender Joel Mann, particularly vocal in galvanising his team-mates. It was disappointing, therefore, that the Hornets once more went behind to a close range 75th minute effort from substitute Anthony Jacobs, who had just entered the fray moments before. This led to a massive goal celebration as the Three Bridges youngsters perhaps thought they were home and dry. However, they were wrong! Within minutes the Hornets were level for the third time when Goddard ran into the opponents’ crowded box with the ball, almost losing possession a couple of times, and managed to stay sufficiently composed to poke the ball home from close range. Needless to say the young Hornets were as equally enthusiastic with their goal celebration!
In case you’re losing count, the score is now 3-3!
As the game entered the last ten minutes Horsham looked the more likely winners, showing more drive and determination than their opponents, and the reward came in the 88th minute when Harding smashed a left foot strike into the net from just inside the box. There was just time for one last nervy moment for the travelling spectators to endure as a Bridges free-kick evaded the defensive wall but lacked sufficient power to trouble keeper Jack Gunn, who held on to the ball comfortably. That was it, as the referee blew to end an exciting debut game for our Under 23s side who, although on the back foot at various stages of the game, showed great effort and determination to get a deserved victory .
9.Herry Brooker (Bryant,65)
11.Aaron Danquah Kodua (Gordon,55)
Report by Darryl Jacobs
Horsham U23s are next in action on Tuesday 10th September when they face Tooting & Mitcham United at The Camping World Community Stadium, ko 7.45pm.