The Hornets’ losing away streak finally came to an end last night, but only just, as a stoppage time goal from Gary Charman earned them a deserved share of the points from an often heated affair with mid-table Kingstonian.
Not for the first time in his long and distinguished career, Charman was in the right place to rescue his side after Dan Hector had put the Ks ahead ten minutes into the second half, ending a run of five defeats on the road for Dom Di Paola’s side. After a bright, and evenly-fought first half, it looked as though Horsham’s evening would end in more disappointment as they struggled to break down a well-disciplined Ks defence while the home side’s pacy attack, in which Eddie Dsane and goalscorer Hector looked lively throughout, gave the Hornets’ back line a testing night.
It was a changed line-up from that which lost to ten man Cray at the weekend, with leading scorer Chris Smith preferred to Greg Cundle, Will Miles replacing the injured Joe Shelley, Steve Metcalf dropping to the bench in favour of Dylan Merchant and Kieran Lavery making a surprise appearance in place of Rob O’Toole in attack. Kingstonian made just the one change to the side that drew at Bognor last time out, Dan Bennett coming into the midfield for Aaron Lamont.
No quarter was asked nor given in the opening exchanges, with tackles flying in from both sides at the start, but Horsham did produce two dangerous crosses from Harry Mills and Harvey Sparks that failed to find a team-mate up in support. A nice pass from Alex Kelly found Smith in behind the Ks defence but, having raced into the box, his cut back went straight to a red and white shirted player and another promising move came to nothing.
Horsham were fortunate not to go behind on 12 minutes when Dsane cut inside and hit a low, left-footed shot that took a slight deflection to take it behind for a corner from which a goalbound header had to be hastily cleared off the line. But the visitors responded well and Mills and Smith combined to create the space for Sparks to whip in a cross that Lavery headed wide. Two minutes later, a super Horsham move really should have resulted in a goal. Jack Brivio, who was at the heart of most of Horsham’s best moves throughout the game, cleverly slipped the ball through for Lee Harding but when his low cross arrived at the feet of Smith, having been missed at the near post by Lavery and two covering defenders, the unmarked striker’s shot was swiftly blocked by Fabio Saraiva.
It was becoming an open contest and, at the other end, George Bentley just got his fingertips to a dangerous Sean Clohessy cross, with Bennet and Gus Sow waiting to pounce. A determined run by Brivio then forced Rob Tolfrey’s first serious save of the night, the captain showing good footwork on the edge of the Ks box to create a shooting opportunity for himself that, although having the sting taken off of it by Simon Cooper, still needed the former Horsham ‘keeper to get down to his right to make a sharp save.
Then, from a quick counter-attack, Tolfrey’s long clearance picked out Dsane whose cross was headed just wide by Bennett. In Kingstonian’s next attack, Bennett’s cracking effort from the edge of the box had to be pushed behind by Bentley at full stretch but the Hornets were mere inches away from taking a half-time lead when, just seconds before the interval, a dazzling run by Harding saw him beat three defenders only to see his left-foot strike come back off the inside of Tolfrey’s far post.
H/T Kingstonian 0 Horsham 0
Horsham remained on the offensive at the start of the second half, with Lavery’s low drive bringing a comfortable save from the experienced Tolfrey and, in a similar situation shortly after, Harding collected Lea Dawson’s crossfield pass but failed to get any sort of power behind his shot.
There was an element of ‘route one’ football about the game’s opening goal, although few could deny the quality of the finish. As another Horsham attack broke down around the Ks’ penalty area, Tom Kavanagh launched a huge downfield punt that tempted Bentley to race from his line only to be beaten to the ball by the speedy Hector who lifted it over the ex-Albion ‘keeper from the corner of the penalty area and into the unguarded net.
Parity might have been restored almost immediately when more good work by Brivio set up Smith with a chance that he curled wide of the far corner, with the Hornets unable to capitalise after play was then brought back for a foul on Brivio in the build-up.
Play was becoming increasingly fractious, with the appeals for free-kicks intensifying from both sets of players and supporters, and as the game stumbled along so the chances began to dry up. Brivio had to head a dangerously inswinging free-kick from Kenny Beaney over the bar and the midfielder was just as effective at the other end when he escaped the attentions of two opponents before delivering a defence-splitting pass that found Smith fractionally offside.
Horsham appealed in vain for a penalty when, from a Kelly corner, Sow appeared to catch Dawson in the face with a high boot but as play was allowed to continue, frustrations boiled over when Taurean Roberts, who had only just come on for Merchant, was involved in a flare up with a couple of Kingstonian players. No-one quite knew what had instigated the coming together and, clearly, neither did referee Stephen Parkinson who decided a talking to to the errant opponents was sufficient action to take.
The match was degenerating into a series of scrappy fouls, with home players needing little invitation to go to ground under minimal contact, so it was with no little irony that the three points were snatched from their grasp in the second of five minutes added on by Mr Parkinson for stoppages. Charman had only been on the pitch for seven minutes, having been sent on in place of Smith, but you don’t play more than 800 games without knowing instinctively where to be and, when the excellent Brivio won possession and set up Cundle to fire the ball low into the box, Charman got there before Clohessy to stab the ball home in front of the delighted away fans.
It was the second time this season that the Hornets had struck late at King George’s Field, having produced a ‘smash and grab’ against the Ks’ landlords Corinthian-Casuals back in October and, although not quite enough to secure all three points, Dom Di Paola will be thankful to end that poor away run before facing back-to-back home matches in the next week.
Match report: Mark Wells
Photos (below) by John Lines