Horsham returned to the Isthmian Premier League summit thanks to a 4-0 victory over struggling Bowers & Pitsea.
Already a third of the season gone, the 2018/19 Isthmian South East Play-Off winners are certainly a contender for a second successive promotion and will continue to harbour high hopes of finishing the season in the play-off places come May next year.
Horsham’s superb new 4G pitch meant that the game at Camping World Community Stadium was just one of four in the division to go ahead, with FA Trophy commitments, rain and sodden conditions causing havoc with the rest of the afternoon’s fixtures.
Horsham were helped to victory thanks to a Chris Smith hat-trick with Dylan Merchant also getting on the scoresheet. Smith opened the scoring in the 12th minute while Merchant doubled The Hornet’s lead on 24 minutes. Smith then added two more goals during a second half which was lacking in any quality as the rain continued to lash down for the entire contest.
Horsham opened the scoring in partially unusual circumstances. A speculative shot from Kieran Pamment was direct at visiting goalkeeper Callum Coulter who parried, but under pressure from Smith, the Hornets striker somehow managed to bundle the ball back into the goal, with the side netting bulging. The crowd’s confusion meant nobody was quite sure whether or not the goal stood, but after a brief delay and a check over with his assistant referee, Mr. Shelby Elson correctly awarded Horsham the goal confirming the ball had indeed crossed the line.
The Hornets should have added a second soon after as Smith had time and room to connect with a free header as a long ball was sent into the mix, but he instead headed off target, but despite Lee Harding putting the ball in the net with the follow up, the linesman’s flag was raised against him.
However, Horsham didn’t need to wait long to grab a second. A superb deep cross from Rob O’Toole was floated over into the box, and Dylan Merchant launched himself at the ball, slamming home on the volley on 24 minutes.
A great run from Harvey Sparks nearly resulted in a third goal before the break as Coulter parried, but as Pamment rushed in looking to force in the rebound, a brilliant last-ditch challenge from Thomas Stephen denied the pacy winger.
Lea Dawson then flashed a dangerous shot over the bar before the interval.
H/T: Horsham 2 Bowers & Pitsea 0
With Horsham firmly in control, the second half largely become a forgettable occasion as neither the visitors failed to regain a foothold in the contest, with the visitors largely toothless up front, and Horsham finding it hard to keep momentum going with conditions best described as atrocious.
Bowers’ James Thomas managed to fire a poor effort at George Bentley with a low drive that lacked any power to test the Hornets shot-stopper, but the closest the visitors got all game was from full-back Ryan Sammons, who unleashed a dangerous rocketed shot from 25 yards out that flew narrowly over the bar.
But with just over 15 minutes left to go, Horsham wrapped things up with a third goal. A long cross into the box was not dealt with by the guests, and as the ball pinged off a defender, Smith tucked home, prodding in the loose ball.
Smith had a great chance to seal his hat-trick late on after he was slipped in by Harding, but he sliced at the ball and fired wide, however, the former South Park hitman would indeed his second league hat-trick of the season in the final minute of injury time when he was sent one-on-one against Coulter and cleverly dinked the ball beyond him to confirm Horsham’s place at the top of the division.