On an intensely warm evening at The Saffrons, and playing on a grass pitch for the first time this season, Horsham were made to feel very uncomfortable indeed. A 12th successive win was not to be as the Hornets fell to a bang in form, and well motivated, Eastbourne Town side.
Horsham, fielding four changes from the outstanding starting XI who faced Crawley Town on Saturday, were unable to reproduce anything like that performance. In a very competitive match, they were well beaten by a lively Eastbourne Town side who appear to be strong promotion contenders in the Southern Combination Premier League this season .
Town grabbed an early advantage in the sixth minute when Will Miles was caught in possession allowing striker Aaron Capon to close in on goal only to be thwarted by keeper Josh James. From the resulting corner, slack marking allowed Dan Rogers to guide the ball home from close range.
The hosts continued to look the better side and Miles did well to block twice on the goal line to save the Hornets from going further behind in the 20th minute.
Three minutes later, Horsham were denied a leveller against the run of play when Miles had a powerful header ruled out for offside.
The chalked-off finish sparked the visitors into life as Horsham started to get a foothold in the game, and their efforts were rewarded in the 25th minute.
A push on Miles inside the penalty area was spotted by the referee, who rightly awarded the spot-kick. Chris Smith then made no mistake, calmly placing the ball down the centre.
The Hornets were now beginning to control the game and Smith forced Jason Tibble into making a fine double save on the half-hour mark. The away side came closer just before the break when Smith beat the offside trap, and attempted to slalom past Tibble, but the keeper second-guessed him, smothering the ball to keep the scores level at half-time.
HT – Eastbourne Town 1-1 Horsham
If the theme of the half-time team talk from manager Dom Di Paola was about concentration and marking, then he’d have been tearing his hair out within minutes of the restart, as Eastbourne retook the lead. Capitalising on the Horsham defence ball-watching, Dan Perry hit a first-time effort, with the shot clipping in off the post.
Perry, a threat all night, grabbed his second in the 63rd minute, and the striker caused further problems for Horsham just four minutes later. A looping header rebounded off the upright, with Perry left fortunate when Dean Lovegrove’s attempted headed clearance couldn’t prevent Perry from recording his hat-trick.
Horsham did manage to rally themselves however, and pulled one back when Charlie Harris, introduced for Jack Brivio, smashed a free kick against the crossbar and from a cross, Kieran Lavery managed to divert the ball into the net.
Rob O’Toole replaced Smith to add fresh legs but a comeback was never on the cards with both sides making several substitutions as the heat took its toll .
Town manager John Lambert, would have been delighted, showing that Friday’s comfortable 3-0 away win over BetVictor Division One South East side Whitehawk was no fluke.
On the other hand, though Di Paola may begrudge the manner of this defeat, he still has plenty of time to work with the squad to put things right, starting with this Saturday’s long away trip to Wimborne.
The club are running a coach service for this fixture. Limited spaces are available so make sure you get to The Camping World Community Stadium at 10.30am to grab your place. Coach fare is £12.
Report by Darryl Jacobs