Groundhop 1881 – Horsham FC

Isthmian League, Division 1 South
Horsham FC v Dulwich Hamlet FC
Tuesday, 19th March 2013, 7.30pm
Goring’s Mead (Horsham YMCA FC)
Entrance £9, Programme £1
Distance 58 miles, Attendance 148
Whilst the first Horsham FC was founded – according to the club website – in 1871, for the opening decade any matches depended largely on “enough players being available to form a side”. Needing proper organisation, the club was re-established in 1881 and played their first proper match against neighbours Dorking. By September 1882 Horsham were founder members of the Sussex County Football Association. Fittingly going through a “golden age” between the 1930s and 1950s, the club joined the Isthmian League in 1973 where they have played ever since.

ILD1S Horsham v Dulwich Hamlet (53)

Until a few short weeks ago I was totally unaware of this vital piece of 1881 information; I’d even seen them play last season and still it had past me by. Then they were fighting against inevitable relegation against a fine Wealdstone team. Tonight they faced a formidable Dulwich side currently chasing for the title and a place in the Premier Division.
ILD1S Horsham v Dulwich Hamlet (63)Ok it was still going to be a dark two-pair-of-socks night but, driving down the with the sun not yet set – in what seemed the first time in months – I couldn’t have been happier. Last season I’d found Horsham to be a wonderfully hospitable club, where fans – with the aid of gallows humour – supported their team loyally despite their precarious position. Parking tonight on site, the welcome from those on the gate gave a hint that I might be in for a repeat.
Having sold their home for development in 2008, Horsham initially spent a year at Worthing, before returning to ground share with their former next door neighbours Horsham YMCA. The share seems amicable enough but, the pitch has clearly taken a pounding, as has the loss of support due to a season in the wilderness away from the town.
ILD1S Horsham v Dulwich Hamlet (51)Club historian Adam Hammond wasn’t at the game however, chatting with Committee Chairman Mark Wells it was clear my previous experience was not a one-off. Demonstrating a clear affection for the club, he talked candidly of the future of ground proposals, the young team, and not wanting to find themselves back in county football.
Lining up, the two teams were poles apart. Horsham, sporting yellow were young, with potential but, clearly needed time to mature; the Dulwich side in their traditional pink and blue appeared more confident.
ILD1S Horsham v Dulwich Hamlet (8)wTaking everyone by surprise in the opening seconds, Hamlet came out all guns blazing. The very impressive Erun Oztumer passed out wide to Ellis Green, whose pinpoint cross was met by an even better Nyren Clunis header. One-nil down in 22 seconds one would’ve expected a total rout however, the score was still the same at the break. If anything Horsham settled into the game; demonstrating the potential many of their players clearly have, they even had a goal ruled out for offside.
ILD1S Horsham v Dulwich Hamlet (11)w2The second half however went quickly downhill. Despite some fine chances for Horsham two quick goals from Green and Connor French put the game far out of their reach. Before a fourth Dulwich goal arrived courtesy of Daniel Carr, Tony Nwachukwu won and converted – at the second attempt – a penalty but this proved to be little more than a consolation for Horsham.
Whatever the score, it was good to be back at Gorings Mead again, cheering on a team that Watford have so much in common with; both are 1881 teams, both play in yellow on pitches with a slope, and both are nicknamed The Hornets.
Horsham was a team I hadn’t expected to return to this soon but – thanks to the one of their supporters reading my Eastbourne Town article – one I’ll happily come back to again.
The real test for The (Sussex) Hornets is building a new golden era; it somehow feels like we’re heading that way at Vicarage Road, I just hope Horsham’s Hornets can find a new home soon, where they can once again build something golden. The real test for me is now finding a Sunday free to go and see the Horsham fans’ team; the wonderfully named, Horsham 1881 FC.

ILD1S Horsham v Dulwich Hamlet (58)w

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Initially appearing in this season’s Watford FC matchday programmes, consequently Groundhop 1881 reports will appear late on here. At the end of the journey, a book will be published telling the full story.
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