Horsham’s impeccable pre-season campaign took a surprising nosedive away at Hartley Wintney as The Hornets surrendered a 0-2 lead to lose 2-3 in Hampshire.
The Row, who were our opponents in our first ever game at The Camping World Community Stadium when we opened the doors of our new home back in July 2019, took full advantage of Dom Di Paola’s side who became complacent once 0-2 up, gaining revenge for their 4-1 loss in pre-season over a year ago as The Hornets put in a sloppy display during the second half with the hosts hitting back.
Having scored 13 goals in pre-season without conceding, Horsham must have felt confident that they would continue their burgeoning form against the Southern League Premier Division South side, and they certainly looked like there would be no issue when Will Miles put them in front on eight minutes, with Chris Smith capitalising on a goalkeeper howler from Luke Williams two minutes after half time. But a penalty converted by Ben Wright was followed by another keeper cock-up – this time from George Bentley who saw his clearance closed down and deflected into the net by Wright to drag them level. Horsham never really recovered with the hosts looking the most likely to snatch the win and it proved to be the case as Sam Argent sealed the win late on with a glanced header with 11 minutes remaining.
Things actually began positively for Horsham, who took the lead on eight minutes though a set piece. Charlie Harris’ corner was floated over and the ball was promptly bundled in by Willl Miles thanks to a scuffed shot from inside the box.
A minute later, The Row countered as Ben White attempted to guide a low curling effort past the defence, but it drew a comfortable low diving stop by George Bentley.
Chances however didn’t get much more clear cut for either side during the first half, with a skied effort from Harris the best Horsham offered after midfield wide-man Lee Harding did well to power down the wing and send over a fine cross.
At the other end, Hartley Wintney spurned a chance to draw level when a dangerous low cross fizzed its way through the box with Horsham’s defence outnumbered and stretched.
H/T: Hartley Wintney 0 Horsham 1
Horsham doubled their lead two minutes into the second half thanks to a comical error from home shot-stopper Luke Williams. A routine clearance following a back-pass went horribly wrong as he kicked the air instead, and in swooped Chris Smith rushing in behind to tuck into the empty net for the easiest goal he’ll score all season.
Three minutes later, The Row were awarded a penalty when Harvey Sparks handled inside the box. Ben Wright stepped up and took his penalty well, smashing it low down to Bentley’s left hand side, who had dived the right way, but could not keep it out.
Incredibly, Horsham found themselves back on level terms – this time thanks to a mistake from their own goalkeeper. Their appeared to be little danger for Bentley as he went to send the ball downfield, yet with Wright closing him down quickly, the Hornets No. 1 punted straight into The Row striker and watched in horror as his clearance deflected back into his own net.
Horsham appeared to struggle thereafter with the game increasingly suggesting that Hartley Wintney would be the most likely to grab the next goal, and they completed the comeback with 11 minutes remaining. A teasing cross was sent into the mix, and up rose Sam Argent to take the spoils from the afternoon with a backwards flicked header that nestled nicely into the net.
Reporter: Matt Dale