Slough were making their second visit to the Atspeed Stadium in a month after torrential rain caused the first attempt at playing this Ryman League Premier Division match to be abandoned after just seventeen minutes.
Slough went down 4-0 at Horsham on Tuesday night, although the score line was perhaps a little harsh on our team who never gave up even when all hope of snatching an unlikely result had gone.
Slough, who were without captain Steve Daly and Heybridge hero George Moleski and with centre-forward Steve Hale playing at centre-back were always going to be up against it but, to their credit withstood a lot of Horsham pressure and went into the half-time break with a respectable 0-0 score.
With the the home side attacking up the slope in the first half, Horsham controlled much of the first half, restricting Slough to only the occasional half-chance. Shots went horribly wide of the target and way over the crossbar for the home side, but rarely was the 'keeper forced into a save.
John Westcott enjoyed a lot of the early ball and Steve Hale, playing in an unfamiliar defensive role, received a caution for stopping the winger inside the opening ten minutes.
A trademark free-kick from the home side almost led to a spectacular opening goal after Stuart Myall’s flighted chip had picked out the head of Charman and, as the ball was played back across the goal, Charman launched himself into an acrobatic volley that flew wide of Jamie Jackson’s goal.
Charman then embarked on a run, picking up a loose ball in the centre of midfield and driving at the heart of the Slough defence but he mishit his shot, sending it disappointingly wide of the upright.
Horsham were getting closer to that opening goal and they thought they’d found it on twenty-five minutes when a sweeping crossfield move saw Rook latch on to Myall’s lofted pass to cut the ball back for Farrell who lashed the ball home from six yards. But joy turned to frustration for the on-loan striker as the goal was wiped out after the linesman adjudged the ball to have crossed the line before Rook could pick out his team-mate.
The same two players were involved again, soon after, when Symon James was booked for obstructing Nigel Brake and Myall’s pass enabled Rook to turn away from the defender and knock the ball in towards the near post where Farrell was denied by a point blank stop from the Slough ‘keeper.
Matt Miller also thought he had given Slough the lead when he pounced on a loose ball inside the area and fired the ball into the net, but play was stopped and bought back for a foul on the goalkeeper.
Rook squandered arguably the best chance of the half, two minutes before the break, when Taylor charged down a defensive clearance but, with the ball falling invitingly for the former Hastings hitman, he opted for the first time shot, miscuing horribly from twenty-two yards with team-mates well placed on either side of him.
So it was 0-0 at the interval, and by the looks of things Slough had every chance of taking a point from the match.
But within 15 minutes of the restart, those hope had vanished.
Slough for the first time in the game were putting the Horsham goal under some real pressure. Despite failing to create many chances of real note during the first forty-five minutes, the visitors could be pleased with their performance and they almost took the lead on fifty-five minutes when a hopeful ball forward by James was left by the otherwise impeccable Eddie French and Miller was in on the blind side to draw a crucial block from Mansfield on the edge of his area.
Ironically, just moments after producing their best chance of the night, the Rebels fell behind. Charman turned his marker and clipped a perfectly weighted pass over the top of the defence for Farrell to cushion the ball adeptly on his thigh before lashing the ball past the ‘keeper although it was easy to understand the visitors’ appeals for offside with the Lewes man looking to have been a yard beyond the last defender.
The lead was doubled, less than two minutes later, and was a reward for the never-say-die attitude of Carl Rook. Chasing a long goal-kick from Mansfield, the striker took advantage of a stumble by Hale to nod the ball over the advancing Jackson whose outstretched fingertips could only divert it into the back of the net despite Michael Donovan’s best efforts to keep it out.
From then on, Slough managed to steady the boat without really looking like they were going to get back into the game.
Davis, having already been booked, found himself in trouble with the referee again when a pacy attack involving Price, James and Abby Nsubuga saw Davis overrun the ball as Mansfield came to meet him, with the Hornets custodian claiming to have been caught by the striker’s late challenge. With the visiting fans claiming Mansfield had made a meal out the situation, the animated referee surprisingly chose only to have a calming word with the Slough playmaker.
Hale struck his free-kick straight into Mansfield’s arms after Hemsley was cautioned for bringing down Davis. An amazing turn of events saw the Slough goal have a miraculous escape when Charman sent Brake sent free down the left before continuing on into the box where the full-back’s cross picked him out at the far post. His diving header hit Rook on the goal-line, denying Charman a clear goal, before the rebound fell to Hale who struck himself in the face with an attempted clearance, sending the ball back towards goal before being hacked clear by Wilkinson. As the ball fell to Carney on the edge of the box, his bobbled shot careered back into a posse of players before Charman ended the game of pinball by firing over the crossbar.
Taylor’s dangerous cross dropped on to the top of Jackson’s goal as Horsham looked to finish off their opponents but casual play from Carney almost let the visitors in for a nail-biting finale when his weak header was pounced on by Davis but his aim was too high and the ball cleared Mansfield’s goal by a couple of feet.
Hemsley might have wrapped things up in the closing stages but he couldn’t direct his header on target from Taylor’s corner and it was left to Charman to create the opening for Farrell, once again, when he juggled the ball before floating in a clever ball that Farrell swept past Jackson before setting off to celebrate his second of the night with the handful of fans behind the goal.
The dejected visitors were soon beaten again when a powerful run from Rook saw him sprint half the length of the pitch before clipping the ball over the diving goalkeeper and back off the post where Mingle, following up, scored his first league goal for the Hornets from little more than a yard out.
The final word almost belonged to the Rebels when they forced a corner in injury time but Hind, taking one touch to control, blasted his shot over.
Horsham Line up
Alan Mansfield, Stuart Myall, Nigel Brake, Eddie French, Kevin Hemsley, Lewis Taylor, Jacob Mingle, John Westcott, Lee Farrell, Carl Rook, Gary Charman. Subs: Lee Carney, Tom Graves, James Cant, Dean Wright, Gareth Williams.