Tyrell Richardson-Brown came off the bench to secure all three points in a enthralling game at Culver Road as Horsham defeated their play-off rivals Whyteleafe and leapfrogged them in the table to go third.
The two sides entered the match level on points with the visitors sat third compared to Horsham’s fourth place position and it appeared that Dom Di Paola’s side would have to settle for a draw having spurned several good opportunities throughout the game, but Richardson-Brown’s thunderbolt late on was timely, and decisive as The Hornets took another step forward in their quest for promotion.
Few could argue that the result was not deserved with Horsham largely in control for long periods having peppered shots on the visitors goal as ‘Leafe defended well and looked to have done enough to secure a point, but they themselves had a few chances of their own as they made The Hornets work hard for the win, testing Josh Pelling with good efforts as the Hornets’ shot-stopper helped secure back to back clean sheets for the first time in over a month.
Within four minutes of the match getting underway, Horsham’s players appealed for a foul inside the Whyteleafe penalty area when midfielder Jack Brivio appeared to go down under a push but referee Casimir Nzenga showed that he was not interested as he beckoned him back up onto his feet.
Soon afterwards, a marauding run by Charlie Harris through the centre of the pitch saw him get into a good position just outside the penalty area where he was urged to shoot, but he clipped his effort into the palms of visiting goalkeeper Tyler McCarthy who made a routine save.
With Horsham asking all of the questions early on, a high ball was wonderfully taken down on the wing by Steve Metcalf and he floated over a dangerous cross that caused all kinds of danger inside the Leafe box, but despite getting up well to head the ball, Rob O’Toole’s twisting effort was off target as the ball took a deflection off Helge Orome and went out for a corner.
The Hornets continued to enjoy concerted pressure in Leafe’s own half and soon afterwards, a Harris free-kick from twenty-five yards out presented the midfielder with a chance to test McCarthy, however his right footed curling effort fooled everyone inside the ground when he smacked the ball past the ‘keeper only for it to whistle inches past the post.
Having been on the back foot for so long, Whyteleafe eventually managed to get out of their own half on twenty-two minutes, as they brought the ball forward and played it for Matthew O’Donoghue in a dangerous position. The full-back managed to hold the ball up and dummy his marker, before unleashing a bobbling shot that Josh Pelling did well to react too, diving low down to parry before his defence mopped up the danger.
However, the home side continued to look the most likely to score, and soon after the half hour mark, a switch-off at the back from ‘Leafe played in Chris Smith as he ran behind and anticipated the bounce of the ball as strike partner O’Toole misjudged, but despite getting into a one-on-one situation with McCarthy and having a lot to do, he skewed his shot well over.
With a lull in goalmouth action, Horsham had two great chances to take the lead five minutes from half time. The first came on forty minutes courtesy of some excellent persistence from Harvey Sparks who managed to get beyond his man and nod the ball down to his feet before playing a low square ball into the six-yard box where both O’Toole and Smith were waiting, but some excellent last ditch defending by Corey Holder made sure he won the ball as ‘Leafe cleared their lines.
Horsham’s best chance of the half however, came a minute before half time. A free-kick high up was pumped into the mix from the left flank, and Dylan Merchant headed downwards where O’Toole spun around and prodded the ball at goal from three yards out, only for him to be denied by a goalline clearance from O’Donoghue.
H/T: Horsham 0 Whyteleafe 0
The second half continued in the same vain as Horsham looked to find the opener with Lee Harding’s cross causing McCarthy issues inside the box as he hesitantly came to collect the ball. At the other end, Valentino Carpene’s strong run deep inside Horsham’s half caused Merchant difficulty as he struggled to contain the ‘Leafe number nine, but under pressure and quickly closed down, he fired over.
Horsham then had a brilliant chance to score when Smith fed Sparks with a brilliant ball to release him behind the defence, with ‘Leafe split apart the former Bognor Regis Town man merely had to slip it beyond McCarthy, yet his low left footed was too close to the ‘Leafe ‘keeper who made the block to keep things as they were.
The lack of a clinical finish from Horsham again saw Horsham kept at bay when Harris shot from distance and drew another safe from McCarthy who dived down low to his right to push it away, while O’Toole threw himself at Harris’ in-swinging cross and missed.
With chances wasted, Horsham were issued a reminder that ‘Leafe themselves could be dangerous when Carpene was played onside and found himself in a good position to fire at goal, but Pelling was off his line quickly and made himself big to thwart him as he made a strong save and vital contribution. Pelling would soon need to make another fine save to prevent an altogether different outcome when he acrobatically tipped over a rasping shot from O’Donoghue who had driven forward and found the space open up in front of him.
With time ticking down, it appeared that Horsham were beginning to look fresh out of ideas and would need to settle for a point. On stepped Richardson-Brown with Smith making way for him for the final fifteen minutes. He needed just six. Horsham’s corner was only cleared out as far as Harris who delivered a sweeping ball back into the box, with O’Toole bundled over under pressure, Horsham supporters behind the ball appealed for a penalty but within five seconds, Richardson-Brown struck a peach of an effort as he rifled in on the half volley to secure all three points.
The win, coupled with Hastings United’s 3-3 draw against Phoenix Sports means we go three points behind our Sussex counterparts, while Haywards Heath Town’s 0-0 draw against Hythe Town means The Hornets now have a five point gap from sixth place.