Groundhop 1881 – Horsham 1881 FC

Worthing & Horsham District Sunday Football League, Division 4
Horsham 1881 FC v Sabbath FC
Sunday, 5th May 2013, 10.30am (double header)
Horsham Park
Entrance £0, Programme none
Distance 57 miles, Attendance 3 men and a dog
Whilst secretly we all love stats, sports fans worship them; they’re Our Precious!!! It’s not just league tables, goal difference, possession percentages or number-crunching of the opta folk, for bloggers the stats page is hypnotic. As the Beatles once penned “There are hits and clicks and referrers. There are worldwide maps, and colour codes… …In my life I’ve loved them all.”
Studying said page a few weeks back, I noticed hits coming in from the Horsham goatzone (subsequently found to be more hornets than goats). Clicking back, of my 1881 trip to the south coast it read “Have just seen this article on Eastbourne Towns website, I wonder if our Sunday team can expect a visit?”
Frantically scrabbling around for contact details – and being hampered by not actually being a “registered goat” – I tried in vain to find word of this 1881 side I’d somehow missed. As the next twenty four enlightening hours passed, I fortunately touched base (as those businessy-types say), found not one but three more 1881 clubs to add to my ground hop, developed a minor headache recalculating its completion date and, planned a couple of more trips to Sussex with the kind help of Damian Carter.

130505 WHDSL Div4 Horsham 1881 v Sabbath (18)w

Named after Horsham FC’s first game, Horsham 1881 FC were the brainchild of three dedicated Hornets; Darren Jestico, Damian Carter & Sean Bravery. Originating in 2009 from a 5-a-side team, the club – comprised mainly of Horsham Independent Supporters Club players – have thus far competed in the WHDSFL Division 4 whilst enjoying some good cup runs.
I hadn’t studied this level closely before but, clearly (in my rather limited experience) the main obstacle to a competitive Sunday League side is not player registration, sock tape and ground grading, but Saturday night. As the team took to the field – for the first of a double-header – against the interestingly named Sabbath FC, the topic of conversation thankfully moved away from the Hull-Watford contest, and on to absent players.
“Have you got kit?” Sean enquired. Chuckling I politely responded “My playing days are long since over” (probably bigging my former abilities up a tad). “Oh, you’ll fit right in” came the deadpan retort. As football managers go, the engaging Bravery has better one-liners than most; he would certainly make a great foil for the Fergies of this world.
Up the touchline the Sabbath coach was offering a few one-liners of his own “IT’S REALLY F***ING IMPORTANT. GET THE BALL DOWN… SIMPLE PASSES…” and with that the first game kicked off.
With subs running the lines in their respective halves, Sabbath shot over before Horsham failed to convert some corners, whilst on the touchline a jocular debate went up on the use of hawkeye. Joking or not it’s a red-rag topic to my ears so rather than engage, I went in search of some action shots involving one of the few observers and/or the dogs being walked nearby, only to find that instead the action happened on the pitch.

130505 WHDSL Div4 Horsham 1881 v Sabbath (24)   130505 WHDSL Div4 Horsham 1881 v Sabbath (28)   130505 WHDSL Div4 Horsham 1881 v Sabbath (30)

A great forward pass was miss-kicked by the out-rushing Sabbath stopper, Keith Smartie, and Horsham’s Craig Mitchell fired deftly into the empty net. This is where I should be telling you of ongoing sporting valour of the really good natured 1881 side but sadly as legs tired, the play rarely reached these peaks again. The forward play kept apace with Jestico, Dave Satchell, Alex Swain and Chris Holland (who runs like Ross Jenkins) all showing good touches but, the openings just didn’t come.
130505 WHDSL Div4 Horsham 1881 v Sabbath (10)wWith both keepers making good saves the score line remained until deep into game when a spell of calamitous errors ran amok in this beautiful game. Players slipped over, tackles miss-timed, the ball was stepped on, a forward was hit on the back by a pass and, the ref missed a clear handball allowing Ross Berryman to continue challenging Horsham’s keeper Peter Kersley (the second name in this sentence that I have had trouble reading from the team sheets) and tuck the ball in to level the score.
Full time: Horsham 1, Sabbath 1, Ref 0.
The less said about the second game the better… so I won’t. Limited substitute availability and very tired legs got the better of everyone. It has to be noted that one or two of the visitors adopted some colourful language and, Kersley certainly made up for his error in the first game’s equalising goal with a string of fantastic saves. His heroics sadly could not prevent a two-nil defeat.
Full time: Horsham 0, Sabbath 2, Ref -2.

130505 WHDSL Horsham 1881 v Sabbath (57)   130505 WHDSL Horsham 1881 v Sabbath (63)   130505 WHDSL Horsham 1881 v Sabbath (74)

Mirroring the early history of their beloved Horsham FC, the main issue facing 1881 is fielding enough players but, even this could not detract from what is essentially a truly engaging group of football fans, whose light-hearted approach made this Sunday morning – in a beautiful Sussex park – a pleasure.
On this journey rarely have I seen a game of four halves, where player mistakes cause mirth on their own touchline, found stanchions missing, blood rules ignored to help their team field eleven, and even rarer witnessed dog owners (and their dogs) offered a run out but, these are just more reasons why I continue to enjoy trips to watch Horsham play.
After the emotional rollercoaster of the previous day’s end-of-season “fun”, the sun in Horsham Park warmed and calmed in equal measures. So Sabbath weren’t as anticipated wearing black, and the games were a little scrappy, and the sloping ground provided wonky goals but in groundhopping terms, they all count and when it comes to football games, in my life I’ve loved them all.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Initially appearing in this season’s Watford FC matchday programmes, consequently some Groundhop 1881 reports appeared late on here. At the end of the journey, a book will be published telling the full story.
This entry was posted in 2012-2013, Groundhop 1881, Sunday League, Worthing & Horsham District Sunday Football League and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Groundhop 1881 – Horsham 1881 FC

  1. putajumperon says:

    From Damian Carter on twitter “Love it… Craig Marshall is Craig Mitchell and Kersley is Kersley… I blame Sean’s handwriting.” So that settles everything.

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