Adam Westwood read the players the riot act at the end of this Emirates FA Cup tie in which Horsham allowed ten-man Met Police to have a second bite of the cherry, which will come in Tuesday night’s replay at The Camping World Community Stadium.
The Hornets’ assistant-manager vented his anger after watching the side dominate large periods of the first half and take a deserved interval lead, courtesy of Chris Smith. But the confident play of the first half gave way to an erratic second, with crosses all too often overhit and Charlie Burns – unconvincing in the opening 45 minutes – seldom troubled in the home goal. That said, it was against the run of play that Oliver Knight levelled the scores just before the hour but even the dismissal of Jordi Nzodid, with more than 20 minutes remaining, failed to galvanise the Hornets who will need to be more clinical on Tuesday night if they are to progress in this famous old competition.
The match was just four minutes old when George Bentley’s goal came under threat, when Olli Robinson headed wide from a corner, but from a Horsham free-kick that saw Nzodid cautioned for an over-zealous challenge on Lea Dawson, Joe Shelley’s misplaced pass sent the ball straight to Ayoub Assal and he sent Jack Mazzone clear to send an angled drive against the crossbar.
Making the most of their good fortune, Horsham went in front just three minutes later with a goal that the Police defence will not look back on with any great delight. A long throw by Zack Newton was allowed to bounce over the heads of Robinson and full-back Lucas Ness to the far post where Smith, barely believing his luck, thrashed the ball gleefully in to the net. Just four more minutes had been played when Smith made the net bulge once more when he finished off a fine move by volleying in Harvey Sparks’ delicious cross only to discover the linesman had adjudged the striker to have been in an offside position.
The Hornets were moving the ball around impressively at this stage and went close to extending their lead on 25 minutes when Sparks’ intelligent flick looked slightly overhit for Smith but the goalscorer reached it just before it ran over the goal line, cutting it back where it was fumbled by Burns and had to be hastily jabbed away to safety from inside the six yard box by Alex Fisher with Newton looking to pounce. Smith was the target once again, this time for Will Miles whose forthright run and pass had just too much strength on it for his team-mate to capitalise on and as the ball was cleared, a dipping cross had Bentley nervously backpedalling as the ball dropped just beyond his far post.
H/T Metropolitan Police 0 Horsham 1
The Hornets had a half chance to double their lead, just two minutes after the restart, when Charlie Harris’ forward pass hit the head of a defender, sending the ball back towards his own goalkeeper. Burns was challenged by the alert Newton and, as the ball ran clear, Smith flashed a drive across the face of the goal from a tight angle.
Horsham fans were calling for the dismissal of Nzodid when he and Rob O’Toole met in a full-bloodied aerial challenge, the pair clashing heads that saw the Horsham man replaced by Lee Harding and referee Simon Finnigan electing to take no further action. Rather more savoury action followed when Smith and Harris combined for the former to whip an inviting ball into the box that was just too strong for either Harris or Harding to meet.
The Police really ought to have been back in the contest on 57 minutes when Jeremy Arthur won possession of the ball and ran at the defence, off-loading to Assal who looked set to score only to be denied by Bentley who stood up well to block. But the Hornets’ relief was short-lived as, just two minutes later, Mazzone held the ball up before laying it back to half-time substitute Rhys King and his deep cross found Knight ghosting in behind Dawson to squeeze a diving header between Bentley and his post.
Yet Horsham went close to regaining the lead when some neat combination play between Harding and Smith saw the Hornets’ number ten race away on the left edge of the penalty area before firing in a cross that the stretching Newton was a stud’s length from connecting with. The balance of the game looked to have swung in Horsham’s favour on 68 minutes when Nzodid’s attempts to win back the ball saw him pull Smith back and he was sent to the dressing-room for a second cautionable offence.
A nice passing move by the visitors presented a glimpse of the goal for Smith, only for another offside decision to ruin the good build up, and Harris dragged a 20 yard effort well wide of the goal as Horsham sensed it was now or never if they were to spare themselves from a Tuesday night replay. But it was the Police who might have stolen the win when Knight got away from Newton down the left flank, albeit with an apparent tug of the Horsham man’s shirt, and his hanging cross was put over the bar by Robinson.
Burns had a scare when Knight’s underhit backpass threatened to let in Smith but the ‘keeper was quickly off his line to hack the ball clear in the nick of time and it was the home team who had perhaps the best chance to settle this tie at the first time of asking when they broke clear from a Horsham corner, with a two-on-one counter-attack. But, with King taking Assal’s perfectly-judged pass in his stride, the substitute scuffed his effort to give Bentley a comfortable save.
Four minutes of added time were played but neither side came close to altering the score during that time.
Replay: Tuesday 10th September @ The Camping World Community Stadium, kick-off 7.45pm
Match report by Mark Wells