Tuesday March 8 – SCFL Premier Division
Broadbridge Heath 1 – 0 Horsham
Last Saturday at 3.00pm Horsham were 5 points clear at the top of the league with a chance to extend that lead to 8 points. By 10.00pm on Tuesday evening they had surrendered that lead to sit 1 point behind the new leaders Eastbourne Town with a game more played. Saturdays defeat was damaging, but Tuesday night’s loss to resolute and focused Broadbridge Heath could prove fatal in their quest for the season’s target of the league title.
On a wet and cold night Horsham never really got going and found Heath in a determined defensive mood inspired by the outstanding Michael Chester in goal. To cap a dismal night for the Hornets their influential captain Joe Shelley was sent off for venting his frustrations verbally at referee Harris. On the other hand this was a memorable victory for Heath who will have gained a big confidence boost from this win and they can now concentrate on getting as high up the table as possible, and of course the little matter of a Peter Bentley Cup semi-final.
This match was not a classic, the weather, playing surface and local rivalries put paid to that: the first half being a bit of a non-event. The chances were few and far between and those that fell to Horsham, mainly to Evan Archibald, were dealt with by the inspired Michael Chester between the posts. In addition to Chester, Heath’s Adam Wickling had a superb game – twice being called upon in the opening 45 minutes to deny Horsham. At the other end ‘keeper James Shaw, playing in place of the injured Gareth Williams, saw a Martyn Flack header go inches over the bar and was needed to save a Tim Martin effort.
Horsham seemed to come out more determined for the second half – maybe manager Di Paola had said a few choice words following the first half non show. An early chance fell to Archibald who curled a shot at Chester, only for the Bears ‘keeper to once again pull of a great stop. From the resulting corner Chester was beaten for once by an effort from Darren Boswell only for the ball to canon off the post. With the ball still in play the Heath ‘keeper picked himself up and made a superb one handed save as the ball was fired goal-wards.
Horsham were pressing hard at this stage but the Heath defence and Michael Chester in particular were not going to be beaten. Again Chester saved from Archibald and when it looked like he would concede his defence stood strong; twice his team mates made goal line clearances.
It was then against the run of play on 59 minutes when Heath scored the deciding goal. Jake Holmes was played in behind the Horsham defence and despite big appeals for offside the Heath forward slotted the ball confidently past Shaw.
Heath now sat deeper and frustrated Horsham further as they played out the match in their own half with 10 players behind the ball. As the minutes ticked away Terry Dodd and Archibald both had chances but a combination of Michael Chester and poor finishing meant it was going to be a sorry night for the Hornets.
Shelley got his marching orders with 6 minutes to go and that was it as a contest. The final whistle ended the match and also possibly Horsham’s dream of being league champions.
If things couldn’t have got any worse for Horsham Eastbourne Town fought back to win 2-3 at Arundel and with Town at home to Worthing on Saturday (March 12) Horsham’s match at Chichester City on the same day is now a must win for the Hornets.
Dave Smith – Sports Editor