If there were any negatives to Horsham’s spectacular campaign last season that resulting in promotion to the Isthmian Premier League, the increase in away travel might been one of them. The fact Horsham had a 220 mile round trip to Brightlingsea Regent might have possibly put a few fans off from an all day excursion into the far reaches of Essex, but for those who made the trip, their efforts were entirely rewarded by a ruthless display from The Hornets who thrashed their hosts 0-4 on a sunny September afternoon at North Road.
This was Horsham’s third league victory, as Dom Di Poala’s side gave their most comprehensive display so far in the early stages of this campaign. In short, The Hornets have continued from where they left off from last season as they show they are an outfit that is more than capable of competing with the higher demands of this level.
Pivotal to the victory, was the performance of striker Chris Smith, who bagged himself a hat-trick, and who could have claimed four goals had he not missed a penalty mid-way through the second half. The hitman got Horsham off to an ideal start grabbing his first two goals inside two minutes on eight and nine respectively. Charlie Harris then made it 0-3 nine minutes before the interval when his low freekick fooled everyone and found the bottom corner, and Horsham wrapped it up during the second half as Smith completed his haul forcing in Joe Shelley’s nod towards goal from two yards out. The veteran defender himself earning a notable mention for his commanding display at the back to ensure a second clean sheet in our last three league outings.
Horsham nearly opened the scoring inside two minutes when the visitors ripped Regent wide open with their first attack. Lea Dawson’s raking pass was ran onto by Kieran Pamment, and the wide-man delivered a clever cross for Harris to throw himself at, only for his header to be brilliantly tipped away by an outstretched save by home goalkeeper Charlie Turner.
Regent’s response was to fire a shot at George Bentley from outside the area, as Billy Hunt struck goalwards, but it lacked any conviction to trouble the Hornets shot-stopper. The hosts followed it up with another attempt moments later when Horsham struggled to deal with danger close to their goal, and with Fahad Nazdar collecting a loose ball, the midfielder snatched at a shot which Bentley clawed away having seen it late.
Horsham would open the scoring in the seventh minute as they launched a quick attack and stretched the home side’s defence. Pamment’s flew down the right flank and sent in a low cross into the mix, Smith was there to meet it and he fired in to put his side in front.
It was advantage doubled just two minutes later. A lovely ball by Lee Harding sent Smith through again, and the striker finished clinically with a cool left footed finish to beat Turner at his near post.
Regent appeared rocked, and had Turner to thank for keeping them still in the game with two saved in the 10th and 13th minute, first saving from Harris who managed to squirm a shot out from underneath him that forced him into a low diving save, while he was needed to prevent Smith from grabbing his hat-trick – at least for now – when he blocked his shot after he had been played in with plenty of space.
Despite such early promise, the game lost some of its mojo in the following 20 minutes, although with 10 minutes of the half left to play, Brightlingsea Regent had a good chance to pull a goal back as Hunt jinxed his way past several challenges on the by-line and attempted to centre into the box, he found his pass crucially intercepted.
The home side’s afternoon would get worse though when they conceded a freekick 25 yards out. It provided the opportunity for set-piece specialist Harris to conjure up another moment of magic, and he did just that, fooling everyone with his delivery by smashing it low underneath the wall and into the bottom left corner.
Regent desperately tried to drag themselves back into the game moments after the restart as Romario Dunne fired a fierce drive over the bar, and the same player summed up his side’s abject performance when he hit a poor shot well wide with Regent glad to hear the half time whistle.
H/T: Brightlingsea Regent 0 Horsham 3
Despite Regent manager Tom Rothery’s vocal demand to show Horsham “what they’re all about”, Horsham continued in the same vein as they kept up the pressure and challenged Regent high up the pitch.
The Hornets won another freekick in a dangerous position after Harding was fouled upon collecting Smith’s pass, but this time Harris could only rifle into the wall from the edge of the semi-circle.
Horsham had the chance to put the game to bed when Shelley was elbowed in the head inside the box as referee Ms Abigail Byrne pointed to the spot following the appeals from Horsham’s travelling support behind the goal. Smith was presented another chance to complete his hat-trick, but instead he struck the base of the post, making it two consecutive misses for him personally from the spot, while Horsham have missed their last three penalties in a row.
You sensed the fourth goal was inevitable however, and indeed it would come, as Smith finally grabbed his third goal of the afternoon, racing in to get on the end of Shelley’s headed across goal as he forced home. For Regent’s goalkeeping coach John Albon, it was all too much, and rather berate his players, he instead marched towards assistant referee Mr. Ryan Smith demanding to know why the goal was allowed to stand as he remonstrated that the goal was offside. Perhaps somewhat sympathetic that he was the only person in the entire ground to see the offside, Albon was probably lucky not to have been sent off from the dugout as Ms Byrne issued him a yellow card following his unnecessary tirade
The game petering out, there was one final chance for Horsham later on when substitute Zack Newton tore down the flank and latched onto the ball and he sent in a cross that had Jack Brivio rising up in the air, but he ultimately headed down into the turf and out for a goal-kick.
Horsham will look to follow up this convincing win when we entertain Wingate and Finchley at home on Tuesday evening, while there is the small matter of the FA Cup next Saturday, when we take on Dartford, also at The Camping World Community Stadium.
Reporter: Matt Dale