After ten days of build up, our long-awaited shot at glory is almost upon us. Just over 24 hours to go until the Hornets battle National League Premier side Woking for a place in the Emirates FA Cup proper.
Days like these are what we’ve been waiting for. Why, for all the years of homelessness and hurt, we persevered to bring ourselves back home. And it’s been quite the wait.
Not since the visit of Swansea City, 14 years ago, has a sporting occasion such as this been held in the town.
And though Saturday’s opponents may not quite hold the same stature as the Swans, ticket sales confirm we are already guaranteed to record our highest home attendance since that game, smashing The Camping World Community Stadium’s record attendance in the process. Clearly the Horsham district is ready to get behind its team again.
Saturday’s match will be first team boss Dom Di Paola’s first time managing in the fourth qualifying round, and he can’t wait for the occasion. He admitted: “There’ll be a brilliant atmosphere on Saturday so it’s going to be a good day regardless.
“Hopefully the boys will do us justice, do the football club proud, and that some of these people rocking up Saturday for the first time will come back.
“It’s new territory for me personally, but it’s a good one to build the profile of the club, which is what we’ve always wanted to do. This is where the club wants to be, always being in the mix to get through to the early stages of the FA Cup proper, year in, year out.”
The Emirates FA Cup and its riches is always a blessing for non-league clubs who can find some success. In our case, it has also been a welcome distraction from the league, though a distraction nonetheless.
A dismal defeat to Potters Bar Town last Saturday, our fifth in eight games, does not make for good preparation heading into a big cup match, though one could argue eyes may have been on a bigger prize.
Di Paola said: “We need to get our focus right in the league but it’s hard. Look how excited the club is for Saturday, and how excited the players will be, it can sometimes mean you take your eye off the ball a little bit.
“It’s no coincidence that us, Corinthian-Casuals and Bowers & Pitsea, who have all had replays to get through to the fourth qualifying round, are all down at the bottom.
“Sometimes it can distract the team but there’s no excuses, we need to start getting ourselves in a comfortable position with some points on the board.”
But for all the grandstanding and hype, perspective is needed, and an almighty non-league giant stands in the way of the Hornets reaching the first round proper for only the fourth time in our 140-year history.
Currently 11th in the National League Premier, Woking will be hoping to reach the first round for the fifth time in the last six years.
The Cards’ league form makes for decent reading too, recording impressive wins over Chesterfield, Notts County and Dagenham & Redbridge in recent weeks; their streak ending last Saturday with a narrow 1-0 defeat at league leaders Grimsby Town.
And with experienced players such as Joe McNerney, Tom Champion and Rohan Ince amongst their ranks, as well as prolific goalscorer Tahvon Campbell, who has already notched eight goals in all competitions, it’s fair to say who’ll be heading into the game as underdogs.
Dom said: “We’ve got to understand that it’s a massive game for them as well. They’ll know that if they get through to the next round, they could face some really big clubs.
“They’re absolutely flying in the league so it’s not like they’ve got concerns there so we’ll just have to plan and prepare, try and combat their threat, and come up with ways of playing against them that will cause them some problems.
“We know plenty about them, we know what they’re about and what they’re going to do. We know their strengths, and they’ve got a lot of them, so we’ve just got to try and come up with a way of playing them which will give us the best chance of progressing.
“But you could have all the info in the world, you’ve got to deliver it on the day. We know we’re massive underdogs for this game but we’re bang up for it.”
It should be a tasty encounter with Woking manager Alan Dowson confirming he’ll name a full strength side. Speaking to Woking’s YouTube channel, he said: “We’re not taking anything lightly. I won’t be making changes, I’ll be playing a full strength team to have a go at them.
“Not underestimating them at all, (as) they’ve got a decent side and are no mugs to beat Kingstonian after two games and then beat Eastbourne over two games.”
Injury-wise, for Horsham, a few players will be monitored over the next few days but Dom has confirmed that Shamir Fenelon, Alex Malins and Gary Charman will not play any part, as they continue to be sidelined through injuries ironically all picked up over the course of this year’s FA Cup run.
He said: “Sham’s a huge loss and has been over the last few games. When he has played he’s looked a real threat but hopefully we’ll see him in a week or two.
“Those league games are just as important as well so there’s no point rushing him back only to get injured again. We did that against Kingstonian replay and, that’s come back to haunt us.
“But we had to do that because he scored the winner to take us through. We are where we are because of that goal.”
With excitement building, and maybe some nerves creeping in, Di Paola has given one final message to the fans:
“Enjoy the day and hopefully we’ll see some of you again in the future. Anyone who comes to watch us will say a lot of the time you get good value for money and entertaining football.
“Not all the time, perhaps not last Saturday, but come and enjoy it. We want as many people coming through the gates as possible to continue growing the club.”
Of course we know there are many Horsham fans near and far who can’t make it on Saturday, but don’t worry! Not only will you be able to follow our Twitter feed for regular updates as usual, you’ll also be able to listen to live radio commentary from the game on the BBC Sport website.
Look out for more details on our social channels about how you can listen on the day.
But for those who will be there, on behalf of all at Horsham Football Club, thank you for your support, and please enjoy the day as much as you can.
We don’t know when or if we’ll get this chance again so we ask you to be loud and proud from the first minute to last. The boys will need every ounce of energy and noise to feed off to help get us over the line. COYH!
Please remember to bring your tickets with you to gain entry. Ticket confirmations with a scannable QR code will have been sent to you via email from our box office. These can be printed or downloaded on to a smartphone for scanning.
If you have any issues with your ticket(s), then please contact firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible.
Travelling to the ground –
Arrive early! With a large crowd expected there are likely to be queues at the turnstiles. Please try to be in the vicinity of the ground by 2pm. Approximately 350 seats in the main stand or Lines & James family stand are available on a first come, first served basis so, if you require a seat, please arrive in good time.
Come by public transport if you can. Metrobus routes 98 and 23 call near the stadium and depart from Roffey, Horsham Station, Horsham Bus Station, and Southwater.
Due to limited parking at Hop Oast Park & Ride, all drivers are asked to park at RSPCA HQ, Wilberforce Way, Southwater RH13 9RS, where a free shuttle service will take you to the stadium.
Buses will depart every 5-10 minutes between 1.30pm and 3pm, with a return service operating after full time.
There is STRICTLY NO PARKING at the stadium. This is reserved for players and officials only. More details about transport and parking can be found here.
Arriving at the ground –
Away ticket holders and home ticket holders will each have their own set of turnstiles which they must enter through. Away fans must head through the turnstiles to the left of the clubhouse, while home fans must head through the turnstiles to the right, next to the main gates. Concession ticket holders (over 60s/students/U18s) must bring ID.
Bag checks and searches are also in operation. If you do need to bring a bag, please note that only small bags, no larger than A4 (200mm x 300mm) will be permitted.
What you can expect at the ground –
Due to competition rules, no alcohol can be consumed within view of the pitch. But if you enjoy your pre-match pint we’ve got you covered!
On your right as your enter the stadium grounds you’ll find our fanzone, serving a range of draft beers. Any alcohol bought in the fanzone must be consumed there. The fan zone will open from 1pm and continue serving until 2.45pm. It will reopen on the final whistle with service until 6pm. The fanzone will be cashless, with card transactions only.
The clubhouse bar will also be open and serving the full range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. However, capacity is strictly limited so you will need to arrive early to gain entry. No alcoholic drinks will be permitted outside the clubhouse.
There will be four outlets selling a range of hot food, snacks and soft drinks in the ground. In the main concourse area, Kev’s Kitchen will be serving high quality hot food, while directly next to it, a secondary serving hatch is open for soft drinks. Please be aware that queuing is likely and that we will aim to serve you as quickly as we can.
Either side of the main stand is a Beach Hut, serving up BBQ food as well as soft drinks and snacks, and Howie’s Horsebox, for hot and cold drinks. Please note that Howie’s Horsebox is CASH ONLY.
Merchandise stalls will be situated around the ground for you to pick up all the latest HFC merch including replica kits and scarfs.
Want a memento from the game? For just £2.50, you can take home a glossy, full-colour programme stuffed with interviews, pictures and all the latest HFC news.
Make sure you enter the 50/50 raffle too – with a big attendance guaranteed, our largest ever jackpot is sure to be on the cards, meaning you could walk away from the game hundreds of pounds richer!
Meanwhile, toilets can be found in the clubhouse, ancillary building, behind the main stand and in the fanzone. If clubhouse capacity is reached, supporters wanting to use the indoor toilets will be directed elsewhere.
Smoking and vaping are not permitted inside the stadium itself, but our friendly stewards will be able to direct you to our designated smoking areas.
More details about entry to the stadium and the facilities on offer can be found here.