Thursday 5th December
Bluefin Insurance Development League
Woodstock Park, Sittingbourne
Sittingbourne 3 Horsham 3

After the long, and arduous, rigours of extra-time in Monday night’s County Cup quarter-final, Mark Hawthorne’s squad took to the road and headed east to Sittingbourne’s Woodstock Park in the Bluefin Sports Insurance South Division on Thursday night, looking to maintain their recent form of late.

Light on numbers due to injury and unavailability, Hawthorne was only able to name Kieran Holmes on the bench to keep the coaching staff company and he also handed a starting berth to Harry Brooker on the eve of his 17th birthday. The young striker would subsequently have a vital say in the result of this game.

Sittingbourne got the encounter under way in testing conditions, with a swirling wind making it difficult for both sets of players to judge the flight of the ball, and a pitch that offered plenty of ‘bobbles’ for the players to anticipate.During the first ten minutes neither side could really get a foothold in the game as a corner each amounted to nothing before the first real chance of the game presented itself to Horsham’s Archie Goddard. A ball from midfield set Goddard away down the right-hand channel and, with at least two colleagues begging for the ball to be squared in the middle, the forward elected to shoot on the angle instead which brought a smart save from the Brickies’ Reece Heasman in goal.

On 22 minutes Torin Paget had a volley, which lacked any real power, easily gathered by Heasman before Brooker broke through the home defence and elected to shoot despite, again, a square ball looking a better option with team mates begging for the pass. Horsham would be made to rue these missed chances and Sittingbourne’s Sam Stace, a regular first team player, would punish them soundly.

Picking up a loose ball just outside the area, the diminutive Stace strode forward and unleashed a shot which had Seb Jacobides beaten and crashed down off the underside of his bar before being hacked away to safety. Stace was not to be denied though and, as Horsham failed to clear their lines, he seized onto a loose ball in the box and wriggled past the advancing Jacobides who brought him down in an attempt to win the ball. Referee Uddin had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot before cautioning the goalkeeper for his indiscretion. Stace picked himself up and took the spot kick himself, firing hard into the bottom right corner which Jacobides, to his credit, got a strong hand to but could not keep out.

As is customary with Horsham, they weren’t behind for long. Another searching ball from midfield in the 41st minute, which initially looked to long for Sam Karl, was met with a moment’s hesitation from Heasman and that was all the encouragement Karl needed to poke the ball past the advancing ‘keeper and bring the Hornets level. However, parity wasn’t to last long. Two minutes later a simple long ball from deep opened Horsham up and Stace was first to it. Jacobides was quick off his line to spread himself and close the striker down but the wily forward calmly poked the ball through the ‘keeper’s legs and into the open net to restore his side’s lead just before referee Uddin signalled the end of the half.

Horsham’s defensive frailties would be their undoing once again in the early stages of the second half. Dan Webster was penalised for a foul throw, deep in his defensive third, and as players and coaching staff contested the decision with the referee, Sittingbourne took the throw quickly into a congested penalty area. Somehow the ball evaded everyone and found its way to that man Stace again who swivelled expertly and calmly slotted to ball beyond Jacobides to give his team a 3-1 lead. Six minutes later, in the 55th minute, Brooker broke with pace down the right hand channel and this time, unselfishly, squared the ball invitingly. Frustratingly, nobody had made the run into the area to finish off what would have been a simple tap in!

As the conditions worsened, the swirling wind and rain made it difficult for players to judge the flight of the ball and this came to Horsham’s aid in the 61st minute when a Sittingbourne player misjudged the direction of the ball from a cross and handled in his own penalty area. Again referee Uddin had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and awarding the penalty. The prolific Goddard stepped up and made no mistake with a crisp strike that gave Heasman no chance. This goal seemed to spur Horsham on and, despite a number of fresh legs coming for Sittingboune, a reshuffle to the formation of Horsham’s forward line saw them very much on the front foot for the last 20 minutes of the game.

In the 80th minute Karl collected a ball in midfield and cleverly, after taking a few strides forward, slipped a diagonal ball to his right right which by-passed the Sittingbourne defenders and ‘keeper leaving an advancing Brooker the relatively simple task of passing it into the net from 6 yards. Horsham continued to press but had to be wary as their opponents broke with purpose as, a few minutes later, Jacobides had to rush quickly from his goal to push the attacker out wide before scampering back onto his line to cut out a cross. And then, in the 85th minute, left-back Kieran Britland’s inch perfect pass sent Karl away but his snap shot was brilliantly saved by Heasman.

In the end a share of the spoils was probably a fair result and reward for a battling performance on some very tired legs.

Horsham return to league action at the Camping World Community Stadium on Tuesday 10th December 7.45pm ko with the small matter of a local derby against near neighbours Three Bridges.

Match report by Shaun Scott

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