Monday April 29 – Promotion Play Off Semi Final
Horsham 3 0 Haywards Heath
Martin Read – Sports Reporter
Over 500 spectators – Horsham’s biggest ever crowd at Culver Road, Lancing – attended Monday’s promotion Semi Final, and Horsham supporters were rewarded with a commanding win for the Hornets, their sixth success on the bounce, particularly satisfying because Haywards Heath, fielding some former Horsham players, had triumphed in both of the sides’ league matches earlier in the season. Heath came into the game on the back of a 5-0 walloping on their trip to Ashford United (who went on to beat Hastings in the other promotion semi), whereas Horsham were fresher having had a break the previous Saturday following Thamesmead Town’s withdrawal from the league. On Monday four ex Horsham players were in action against the Hornets, with Horsham introducing changes from their line up at Guernsey, and Horsham made the early running with Harvey Sparks firing marginally wide and Lee Harding just unable to latch onto a set piece. Another free kick found Rob O’Toole, but the striker went too aerial. With Horsham calling the shots a goal would not be long delayed, and after O’Toole’s contact had been denied by a late deflection, the prolific Harding gave the Hornets the lead mid way through the first half. And, it might promptly have got even better, but Heath recovered from a defensive lapse to thwart O’Toole’s attempt. Horsham, though, remained in control, but a repeat foray saw Chris Smith blaze over, and another effort from the striker being rather desperately gathered by former Horsham goalkeeper Anthony Ender.
Resuming 1-0 up, Horsham continued in similar vein, O’Toole, Tyrell-Richardson-Brown, Harding and Smith all testing Heath’s defence, until, in the 64th minute, an impressive build up enabled O’Toole to crash the ball in, tightening Horsham’s grip on the all-important game. With toothless Heath looking done for, Harding almost put the game beyond all possible doubt, but with the constantly exposed Ender beaten, the firm strike just evaded the goal. Subsitute Kieran Lavery then induced a full-stretch denial from Ender, who was then called upon to pull off an equally impressive save from Jack Brivio’s close range header. However, Horsham were not to be deprived of further success, Richardson-Brown volleying in Lavery’s cross to propel the Hornets into the Play-off Final against Ashford United, who had twice been in arrears against Hastings in their Semi, but recovered, an extra time penalty on the two hour mark clinching the Kent side’s appearance in Friday’s big game at Lancing, 7.30 kick off.
Photo credit: John Lines