Isthmian League Premier Division – Horsham FC v Wealdstone FC
Tuesday, 10th January 2012, 7.30pm
Gorings Mead (Horsham YMCA FC)
Distance 36 miles, Attendance 192
Pawing through the week’s fixtures this match seemed an excellent idea (four players with Watford connections up against a team called The Hornets), but having read of the possible parking nightmare around the ground I began to seriously doubt my judgement. Really, if parking signs are “your bag”, Horsham is where you want to hang out. It has the full set. However, once you get your head, and car, round the ad hoc parking restrictions, Gorings Mead is a truly welcome oasis of calm; wooden turnstiles, beautiful trees, friendly locals, and a regulation patch of grass in the middle. Add to the mix, twenty-two (hopefully able-bodied) players, three moderately useful men (or women) in black, mild weather, a cup of tea, and a front row seat in The Victor Gladwish Stand… just wonderful!

Within two minutes of kick off, as their first attempt skidded wide, the true quality of my fortune began to shine through. “Well we’ve had The Chance, I might as well go home now”, came a local voice from behind. Like many teams, Horsham are stuck in a bit of a trough right now. Currently homeless and kipping on the sofa at Gorings Mead, the home of Horsham YMCA FC, a team two divisions below them, and before the game they sat seven points adrift at the foot of the division. Gallows humour is rightfully the preserve of fans in such a position. It wasn’t long before there was a suggestion of playing Spot The Fan, a reply came that there were more people in Queens Street (I’m probably the only one there that had no idea where it was), and another voice wished for the fog to fall whilst the game was at least level. Being a stranger to these there parts I wanted the full 90 minutes and WITH the irreverent commentary too. I’d come to see our promising youngsters Britt Assombalonga and Connor Smith, plus a couple of old boys, Scott Fitzgerald and Jonathan North, all of which were due to turn out for Wealdstone. As it turned out only one of the four was initially on the pitch. “Connor Smith?”, “He’s on loan from Watford”, “Well that’s a cheek!” Really you had to be there to appreciate the patter.

As it turned out, despite the huge difference in league position, the first half was relatively even. Both sides had good possession and chances, and both struggled to capitalise on either. Horsham seemed to rely on more direct play and the speed of the wingers; Freeman and Kedze. Whereas much of Wealdstone play came through the centre with the neat footwork of Brooks, Dean and Smith. It was Dean in fact that put in the visitors’ first serious shot on goal with a speculative, Hughesy-eque, shot-on-the-turn from outside the box. Corners came, and went, without much danger to either keeper. The away bench screamed about dealing with the danger though surely danger needs to be on target at the very least. It was very enjoyable whilst being neither excellent nor awful football, and the ref had little to worry about in this evenly contested battle. There was an unintentional slap in the eye to one Horsham player (or “high-fiving a face” as my son would call it) which elicited some displeasure but generally the game just happened, whilst the banter from the stands kept coming. “You’d reckon he could hit the keeper” when an injury-restart, pass back to the Jonathan North swept way wide of his 18 yard box, and out. Brooks and Smith had reasonable attempts to put the away team in front without success as home fans talked of how their side “look better tonight”. In the end it was The Stones that did make the breakthrough when, after some attacking play, the ball found its way to Peter Dean who was still lying on the floor, near the penalty spot, from a previous challenge. Swiping at the ball with his free leg he managed to scoop the ball in to the net. Not pretty but they all count. In the immediate aftermath, Wealdstone seemed to dominate the play, and their bench seemed to raise their expectations further, but the next great effort fell to The Hornets as Kedze’s curling shot went just wide though North, as always, was well positioned had it been closer. When Jonathan North was eventually beaten, Tommy Murphy hit the post, and then, when it seemed easier to score from the rebound, Murphy managed to hit the only defender standing on the line, and his third effort was saved well by North. It had been a commanding half by North and made me wonder (again) why Watford had released him at all.*

After the ceremonial moving of the Horsham flag, the players emerged for the second half. The home side continued where they’d left off but again struggled to find the final ball and neither side made much headway. When the ball was on the floor there was attractive play, but as soon as desperate hoofs were adopted it became untidy. “CHAUFFEUR’IM!!!”** came cries of frustration from the away bench as support failed to materialise on yet another attack. But from the outset the game was just too close to call and when an equaliser came on 65 minutes, it seemed to come from the same skill set as the opener. Murphy slotted the ball wide to Salami (*a more common name in football than one might expect) who fired a low drive into the box which Sean Cronin sliced into his own net. It might not have been fair on the exemplary North, but it was fair on Horsham who had done enough to warrant a draw thus far.
Wealdstone then, with a fresh throw of the dice, brought on Assombalonga, and soon showed renewed impetus to regain the lead. Smith found himself clear with a high one-on-one but the ball was punched from just above his head by Michael Hunter, the onrushing keeper. Again, as with the first half, both teams seemed to have found their match. Assombalonga clearly has great close control, confidence, strength and speed but whatever he tried it just didn’t seem to make inroads, but in him its clear Watford have a really fine prospect for the future. Smith is clearly still young but can take his plaudits too; he showed good touch and on a better day could’ve scored a brace.
The pace of the game never waned. Brooks had a fine opportunity from a free kick but it was saved comfortably by Hunter, and the home side also had their chances but were kept out by a steadfast defence, or the linesman’s flag. More substitutions followed and soon Scott Fitzgerald was charging around the pitch; there is clearly something about his style of play that Smith can learn from. Whilst Smith at times seemed reluctant to chase after loose balls, Fitzgerald has built a career on harrying down any opportunity. The two complement each other well and the closing minutes saw both create openings for The Stones. And the more Wealdstone tried for the winner, the more Horsham tried to slow the game down; slow substitutions, cramp, and time taken over throws and kicks. A point against a top of the table side was so precious you can hardly blame them for finishing the game thus, and celebrating with their fans. Honours even indeed.

They say football’s a funny old game, but to arrive coveting the best for one side and to leave having a soft spot for the other is truly bizarre. I’d wanted so much from Wealdstone and the four (old & new) Watford players. North was excellent, Smith showed promise, Assombolanga might be the next great thing, and Fitzgerald is still the player I once love to watch… but Horsham, Horsham are The Hornets, and have a kit that looks great under floodlights, and their fans chant “YELLOWS” repeatedly for corners, and their pitch is flat it just slopes downhill. It’s just far too familiar for a Watford fan not to like them. Really, if I was growing up, now, in Sussex, the success of Crawley would mean nothing, Horsham would easily win me over.
(*Perry Digweed/Suckling both made first team appearances, **you work it out)
This entry was posted in 2011-2012, Isthmian League and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to YELLOWS!!!

  1. Excellent write up. Horsham is a really likeable club, and deserve far better than their current plight. As a team they have improved in recent weeks but they need a herculean effort to have a chance of avoiding the drop.

  2. hcr says:

    A wonderful report and although I wasn’t actually at this particular match, you certainly made me feel as though I had been. Your kind words about our club, players and supporters are spot on – thank you for your support, we all certainly appeciate it.

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