A mix up at the back between Josh Pelling and his defender Lewis Hyde cost Horsham dear in South East London as Phoenix Sports’ Alex Teniola capilised on the error to score the only goal of the game and dent The Hornets play-off hopes.
With Sussex rivals Haywards Heath Town falling to a surprise 2-1 home defeat to Guernsey in the earlier kick off, Dom Di Paola’s side knew a win would allow for some extra breathing space to consolidate their play-off place position. However, Sports – who secured a first win in eight fixtures,- were left jubilant at the end of the encounter, with Horsham unable to find a way through after they fell behind on sixty-seven minutes.
The defeat, coupled with Whyteleafe who also lost meant a lost opportunity for Horsham, who slipped to fourth after Ashford United’s 7-0 thrashing of Greenwich Borough saw them leapfrog us into third.
Unlike our 1-0 victory last week against Whyteleafe at Culver Road which was pulsating throughout, this match was the very opposite. A low crowd on a bobbly pitch and on a cold January day suggested that the game itself would be a difficult watch, while in the Boardroom the team sheet printer jamming summed up the game before a ball had even been kicked.
But while the club secretary battled on with the printer, the game got underway. The first chance coming for the visitors as Steve Metcalf outwitted his marker to deliver a cross into the box with limited space, but with Rob O’Toole inside the box, the former Burgess Hill and Saltdean striker could only get underneath the ball as he managed to send his header well over the bar under pressure from Danny Young.
Fellow defender Zak Bryon’s no-nonsense approach then saw him deal with a zipped ball from Lee Harding in towards the box, and he hurriedly send the ball out for a corner seeing off O’Toole.
At the other end, a diagonal ball caught Horsham’s defence off guard when Lewis Clarke collected and crossed in a dangerous ball, but Alex Teniola could do little other than flick a backwards header over the bar.
The game struggling to find any rhythm with both sides cancelling each other out, chances began to come at a premium, but with six minutes to go before half time, the first real chance of the game for either side arrived. It was Horsham who fashioned it, a cross into the box was met on the half volley by Chris Smith who saw his effort turned away by former Horsham shot-stopped Steve Phillips, while the ball came back to Harding who saw his drive clawed out by Phillips who recovered well.
The Hornets did manage to get the ball in the net moments later, by O’Toole’s effort, converted from the rebound was immediately chalked off for offside.
H/T: Horsham 0 Phoenix Sports 0
Bereft of chances for either side, The Hornets emerged the more determined to put the turgid first half behind them, and on forty-nine minutes, Metcalf grabbed the game by the scruff and won back possession high up the pitch before trying his luck from twenty yards, only to see his cracking shot hit the stanchion.
Jack Brivio then failed to get a good enough contact on Harvey Sparks’ whipped cross as Sports managed to half clear only so far as to Charlie Harris, who fired wide.
The game beginning to show it’s teeth, a goal should have arrived on fifty-seven minutes when a wonderful move involving Brivio and Smith saw them exchange a lovely one-two the allowed them to unlock the Sports defence, and as the ball was rolled to O’Toole he only had to apply the finishing touch, yet somehow Phillips thwarted him with a good save after he had looked a beaten man.
Despite Horsham now clearly edging things, Phoenix Sports defended well, and after dealing with a couple of half chances in succession, they took the lead on sixty-seven minutes. A lack of communication from goalkeeper Pelling and defender Hyde meant the ball was not cleared first time, and as Pelling flapped and missed, Teniola nipped in to tuck into the net.
Di Paola immediately sent on on-loan Dorking Wanderers striker Kieran Lavery and Tyrell Richardson-Brown to inject some pace into his side, but the home side continued to defend well and limit Horsham to shots from distance, as Charlie Harris drew a save from the impressive Phillips, and despite some timewasting from the home side that saw Phillips and Jeff Duah-Kessie booked, Sports successfully shut Horsham out after referee Ian Fissenden had played an additional nine minutes of stoppage time.
Reporter: Matt Dale