Horsham’s excellent start to the season continued as they thrashed Merstham 4-0 to climb back up to second in the table as well as gaining ground on table-toppers Folkestone Invicta who lost 1-2 at home to Bognor Regis Town.
Surely a second successive promotion can’t be on the cards for The Hornets? Despite falling to a 2-0 defeat last weekend at Bishop’s Stortford, Horsham returned to winning ways in style and continue to look very much like the same side last season who sealed promotion via the play-offs. There just doesn’t seem to be much that fazes Dom Di Paola’s side, and once again, in front of another impressive home crowd of 602, The Hornets are making the most of their new home surroundings as they chalked up a second 4-0 league win of the season.
Goals from Charlie Harris set The Hornets on the way, with Rob O’Toole doubling the lead before half time. Merstham’s Ellis Brown missed a penalty early on in the second half before Chris Smith made the points safe with a great finish, Lea Dawson then scored his first goal of the season rifling in from distance.
A congested midfield meant a rather sloppy opening 15 minutes, with the first real chance coming when Zack Newton cushioned the ball down and tried to get beyond his marker, but his dangerous low ball into the box failed to pick anyone out.
But despite the opening exchanges offering few chances, Horsham took the lead on 24 minutes. The Hornets won a corner that was delivered into the box by Charlie Harris, Joe Shelley attempted to finish with his first touch but instead managed to get the ball stuck under his feet, the clearance fell to Harris who hammered the ball into the roof the goal, with goalkeeper Matte Pierson only able to push the ball onto the underside of the crossbar as it flew in.
With the home side beginning to control midfield, Ellis Brown tried to drag Merstham back into the game when he held off his man to go on a powerful run deep in Horsham’s own half, ignoring the run of teammate Potchu Mendes Calucane, the striker roamed forward and took aim, but his shot lacked power as George Bentley gathered easily.
Horsham doubled their lead on 31 minutes. From the home side’s perspective, it was easy stuff as Merstham’s defence went missing and when Harvey Sparks’ gliding cross was delivered on a plate for Rob O’Toole, the Hornets hitman couldn’t miss as he tapped into an empty net.
Charlie Harris them hit into the side netting as Horsham looked for a third goal before the break, and they almost claimed it with their next attack when a great knock over from Newton to Smith saw the forward win a corner. Harris delivered and again found Shelley, but the veteran defender – making his 150th appearance – whacked it high over the bar with his boot.
Newton’s positive run again caused the visiting defence problems as he worked his way into the box, where he squared it for Harris, but this time the midfield engine’s shot was driven straight at Pierson who parried well.
H/T: Horsham 2 Merstham 0
Brown again worked Bentley with another poor shot after he used his impressive physique to hold off his man, but the Hornets continued to look them more dangerous of the two sides. With Merstham again struggling to deal with Harris’ dead ball delivery from the corner flag, a flicked header on from O’Toole came straight to Shelley, who from three yards must have thought he scored, only for Pierson to thwart him, clawing the ball away at point blank range.
Incredibly, Horsham missed out on a third goal when Newton somehow put O’Toole’s cross wide when it seemed harder to miss, but the game’s defining moment came on 55 minutes when Dylan Merchant recklessly slid in on Brown to give away a silly penalty.
Had Brown scored, it might well have proved a pivotal moment in the match, but instead the striker clipped the top of the bar and send the ball out of the ground as Merchant’s blushes were spared and Horsham kept their clean sheet intact.
To add insult to injury, The Moatsiders’ afternoon was summed up by an atrocious miss by substitute Brendan Ocran. Horsham gave away possession, Brown tore down the wing unopposed and crossed in low towards his teammate who had an open goal to aim at, yet he sliced wide as Horsham supporters couldn’t hide their delight at his misfortune.
The visiting fans probably felt that everything Merstham offered just imploded or went wrong for them and having missed their chances, Horsham duly made the points safe five minutes later. A racy ball from Newton was clipped into the path of Smith who charged beyond namesake Liam Smith to finish one-on-one against Pierson with a fabulous finish.
Harris would then force a good save from the visiting shot-stopper when his fierce effort was swatted away, but there was little Pierson could do to prevent Horsham’s fourth and final goal of the afternoon. With Horsham calmly stroking possession around nicely, Lee Harding’s pass to Lea Dawson in space saw the midfielder tee one up from 20 yards as he rifled it into the bottom corner.
Horsham will take on last season’s Isthmian South East Champions Cray Wanderers on Tuesday evening at The Camping World Community Stadium before we turn our attentions to the FA Trophy with a trip to Haringey Borough next weekend.
Reporter: Matt Dale