The Hornets’ U23s fought back from behind three times in last night’s feisty encounter with South Park to earn a 3-3 draw and a valuable point which moves them to joint 2nd place (alongside Phoenix and Tooting), in the Bluefin Sports Insurance Development League. Prolific scorer Archie Goddard grabbed a brace, in his outstanding second half performance, and debutant Noble Rumsey got the other goal.
Team News – Manager Mark Hawthorne made six changes from the Hornets’ starting eleven that featured last time out in the 3-2 victory over Three Bridges, back on 10th December. In came new signings Rogerio Morais, a central defender, and Noble Rumsey a striker, also selected was first team player Dylan Merchant seeking some much needed game time. Returning from injury were Trent Fawcett and Ned Pierre and Will Gordon started having been on the bench for the ‘Bridges game.
With the rustiness that comes from a break of four weeks, and so many changes to the personnel, it was perhaps no surprise that the Hornets were somewhat disjointed in the early exchanges of the game. Playing In what looked like a 4-5-1 formation, debutant Rumsey was the lone striker up front. He looked a threat early on, testing Sparks ‘keeper George Osborne on several occasions. His best effort came in the 14th minute when he turned inside his defender and got a left foot shot off which the ‘keeper blocked for a corner .
South Park looked the more organised team though, and they took the lead on 15 minutes with a goal gifted to them as a result of a bizarre misunderstanding between right back Fawcett and goalie Seb Jacobides. With no one showing for a ‘throw in’ down the line, Fawcett elected to throw back to his keeper, catching him unawares, and with Jacobides closed down quickly by the visitors’ striker Josh Adler, he was unable to clear the ball and was dispossessed for an easy tap in.
On 23 minutes, good approach play down the right wing involving Pierre and Alex Parsons teed up Harry Law nicely but he fired well over from the edge of the box. The early success, threading the ball through for the speedy Rumsey, was becoming predictable and with the South Park defence nullifying this attacking option, the chances for the Hornets were becoming few and far between. At the other end, South Park were not creating much themselves but they nearly capitalised on a poor kick from Jacobides which was intercepted by the Sparks striker who fizzed a shot just wide of the post to end the first half action.
H/T Horsham 0 South Park 1
Hawthorne made his first substitution at half-time, bringing on striker Goddard in place of Fawcett, and with the team adjusting to a 4-4-2 formation, with two strikers up front, they set about turning this game around.
Goddard’s impact was instant, meeting a flighted free-kick at the far post to bundle the ball into the net for the equaliser. Looking more dangerous going forward now, the Hornets went close when Rumsey outpaced his defender but snatched at his shot and put it wide of the post. And just after, on 60 minutes, a determined run down the left wing by Kieran Britland saw his enticing cross driven into the the box just beyond the outstretched leg of Rumsey.
The game was nip and tuck at this stage, with both teams having raised the level of performance by a notch or two. But it was the visitors who were in front again when substitute Casey Tucker powered a brilliant header into the net at the near post from a corner. Hawthorne’s response was to bring on debutant Kofi Joseph-Buadi and, just after, Joel Mann in place of Britland and Will Gordon.
On 80 minutes the Hornets grabbed a controversial equaliser that was just as bizarre as the early goal they had conceded themselves. A free-kick was awarded to South Park for offside in the right back position, and ‘keeper Osborne appeared to take the kick, but only passed the ball forward about ten yards. The ever alert Goddard pounced on the ball, rounded the keeper, and put the ball in the net. The Sparks players were infuriated, surrounding referee Cliff Angol and claiming that the ‘keeper was merely passing the ball to the spot where the offside occurred, and that the ball was not in play. The referee consulted with his assistant and the decision was upheld, much to the frustration of the visiting manager Alex Peters who complained bitterly to the referee’s assistant who had been involved in the offside decision. Eventually South Park’s Alberto Lubaneu exhausted the patience of the referee and was sent to the sin bin. As there was less than ten minutes left on the clock it meant that they were down to ten men for the rest of the game.
With both sides stretched, and going all out for a win, it looked all over for the young Hornets when they were caught in possession deep in their own half and, from a fierce cross into the crowded box, substitute Boe Fowler reacted quickest to direct the ball into the net and put the visitors back in front or a third time. But with just under five minutes left on the clock, the Sparks would be knocked back once again and it was that man Goddard who made it happen. Chasing what looked a lost cause down the right wing, he managed to ease his opponent off the ball and from the goal line pulled his right footed cross back into the box where substitute Joseph-Budadhi was lurking to fire the ball on target. The visitors shot stopper made an instinctive block but the rebound was put away by Rumsey who was following in to make the final score 3-3.
Verdict – Probably a fair result but the visitors will feel they were robbed by that controversial second goal for the Hornets. Mark Hawthorne got to try out a few more players and although it was a patchy performance, we didn’t get beaten and showed plenty of fight to get something out of the game.
Team: Seb Jacobides, Trent Fawcett, Sam Gallagher, Alex Parsons (C), Rogerio Morais, Dylan Merchant, Ned Pierre, Harry Law, Noble Rumsey, Will Gordon, Kieran Britland. Subs. Archie Goddard, Joel Mann, Kofi Joseph-Buadi. Unused. Keanu Caromba, Lewis Blaney (GK)
Match report by Darryl Jacobs