Horsham on the Edge of Cliff Hanger
He was standing at the top of the D with his what in his hand?
The 2s have had a mixed start to the season, winning two and losing two of the opening four fixtures of the season. This weekend saw them take the enviable away trip to Cliftonville; oh my god is this place far away. My journey consisted mainly of listening to Rob Turnbull explaining how many VKs he was going to devour that night and whether or not the slightly renovated UEA student union would meet his expectations. Yawn. Mark Bryan was trying to be polite in the front seat but I could see him staring out the window to try and avoid making eye contact with Rob. Anyway, after we had our passports checked during the numerous international borders we crossed, we finally arrived in Ramsgate. Unfortunately for Pete Richardson and Josh Middleton, coach Brian Humphreys was trying a new SatNav routine resulting in their arrival only moments before pushback. Horsham were able to welcome the return of Andy Mcllwraith and Ian Brown after their foray with the 1st team, and Austin Harwood-Stamper after a period of injury. They were however without “drag-flicker” and serial ugly tackler Sam MacDonald due to a hamstring problem, James Smith was moving house (really? No better excuse than that?), Hugo Vickers, Johnny Dale after chipping a nail, and club penalty-stroke taker Mark Humphries.
The visiting side were warned pre-match by captain Neil Brenson about starting sluggish due to the long journey; however the message seemed to fall on deaf ears as Cliftonville flooded the midfield. They appeared to be one step ahead of Horsham and were able to find that extra pass that split the visitors’ formation. With 10 minutes on the clock, a Cliftonville forward found himself with space in the D and finished well on the reverse with Middleton unable to get a kicker on it. This knocked Horsham into gear, particularly the defence of Bryan, Brenson, Pete Richardson, and Rich Franklin who were able to cope with further efforts on the Horsham defensive third. Cliftonville were able to restrict Horsham to a handful of chances, with the visitors labouring in the final third. The combination of Alex Masters, Ian Brown, and Alex Case proved potent in Horsham’s promotion campaign last year, but they haven’t found that same gears this season. This was highlighted after Case was threaded through by Andy Burnage and drove to the baseline. With Brown and Lucas Birrell-Grey waiting in the D, Case found Brown who cannoned the ball into the wheel of the goal and out for a 16. Further chances came with a string of short corners won by the visiting frontline. It was to Horsham’s horror that they have travelled the 14 hours to Cliftonville without a penalty corner stopper. The routines didn’t go well.
Horsham were by no means out of this fixture when half-time came around. But they knew that chances would soon have to be converted if they were to come away with something from the game. The second half brought another battle to Horsham, the sun. This was not a sunset that you get in the movies and could enjoy with a Piña colada, a cigar, and a grass skirt. This was a sunset from the depths of hell. A number of simple passes failed to be controlled and players simply couldn’t pick out the ball against the orange sky. Cliftonville aimed to start strongly again, and laid out a number of attacks resulting in a man leftover at the back post. Strong saves the Middleton, and particularly a block from Brenson after a short corner, kept the scoreline at 1-0. This did not stop Horsham, as they created a number of breakaways. Mcllwraith and Bryan started to play higher up the pitch as Horsham began to run in the Cliftonville half. After dispossessing the right-back following a defensive transfer from the home-side, Case was able to break at the last defender. Cue Masters coming out of nowhere to almost tackle Case, resulting in some choice words being thrown at last season’s Player of the Year. Case was at it again as he was picked out by Bryan at top of the D. After turning his man, he followed Brown’s first half lead by again hitting the wheel of the goal with the keeper beaten. The Cliftonville net was under severe pressure now as Turnbull broke down the left and drove along the baseline. After looking to square the ball back, he somehow nutmegged the keeper, only for the ball to run agonisingly along the goal line for the left-back to clear. Things were getting desperate now with only minutes to go. Case and Burnage seemed keen to add to their glistening card collection for the season after a number of protests; however it was a Cliftonville player who got the wrong side of the umpires; sent to the sideline for the remaining five minutes of the match. With the last attack of the game, Bryan and Turnbull again linked well down the left with the latter hitting the ball to the back post. Case and the Cliftonville left-back jostled for the ball, but it could only be cleared to Brown five yards out, who calmly finished, breaking the home side’s hearts.
You’ll be pleased to hear the journey back to Horsham was a lot better, generally due to some boppin’ chunes from a suspect pirate radio studio and a blunt match summary from Middleton. Horsham will probably feel they deserved a point from the match, but their decision making needs to be worked on if they are to impress against stronger opposition this year. Horsham face Mid-Sussex next week, who are one place above them in the league. If Horsham want to climb the league and challenge for a European place, these are the games they should be winning.
Goal: Ian Brown
Assist: Rob Turnbull
MoM: Pete Richardson / Mark Bryan / Rob Turnbull
DoD: Brian “don’t worry, I’ve got Google Maps on my phone” Humphreys