Courageous Horsham dump Eastbourne Borough out of the FA Cup in replay
One early error, and an all too early FA Cup exit. Eastbourne Borough bowed out of the competition, by 1-0, to a committed and courageous Horsham side on Tuesday night.
Deflation for the Sports, who were far below their fluent best and rarely looked in control of the game. Elation for the Hornets, whose commitment and organisation fully earned their famous victory.
Some home supporters may have turned up at the Lane thinking they were in poll position. But such confidence was misplaced: they were overtaken on the first bend and trailed for the rest of the night. Horsham rode their luck once or twice, but Borough struggled to master the buffeting windy conditions, and rarely penetrated.
The goal that gifted Horsham victory came as early as the sixth minute. James Ferry – returning from a three-week absence – turned in front of the dug-outs and played a pass back to Lee Worgan. It was underhit and held up in the wind, and Eddie Dsane pounced to curl a shot into goal with the keeper stranded.
The remaining 84 minutes should have been ample for Borough to respond. But they never really figured out Horsham’s massed defending, and their handful of scoring chances were either off-target or blocked. Half a dozen first-half corners were fruitless apart from one back-post header, directed too high by Mitch Dickenson.
Meanwhile Horsham themselves did not create even another half-chance until two minutes before half-time, and only a couple of breakaways in the second half.
As manager Dom Di Paola conceded afterwards, 'we had to play a little bit ugly at times' - and his players were happy to run the clock down at every opportunity.
But nobody expects favours in a Cup battle like this one. Borough’s fate, and exit, was in their own hands. The home players know how to play into the Priory Lane breeze – when through balls can hold up just nicely - and a fine tactical battle was developing.
Horsham’s back line did look riskily high at times, but they got away with it and Eastbourne rarely got into space behind them. And a cluttered, combative midfield was no place for elegant passing games.
On 49 minutes, the Sports did get in down their left wing, but Greg Luer’s first effort was blocked and his second shot fizzed just wide. Dsane’s cross-shot, just wide, and Charlie Harris’s 30-yarder – into the car park – reminded us that there were two teams in this contest, but most of the momentum came from Eastbourne.
With new energy off the bench in Charlie Towning and Charley Kendall, they prodded and probed for a way back. Exactly midway through the half, a moment of genuine controversy: Sam Howes mishandled a Joel Rollinson cross and it appeared to be batted back into his hands by a Horsham arm.
Penalty? Nothing doing from referee Isaac Searle, who had cut an indecisive figure on the whistle.
But even that should not have mattered, for in the closing stages Borough passed up a couple of golden chances. Luer hit a fizzing cross shot just wide through a tumble of bodies, before substitute Chris Whelpdale – only marginally fit – was hauled down on a storming run to the edge of the box.
And in added time – a grudging four minutes in compensation for a second half choked with delays – Kendall was played in perfectly by James Beresford but snatched his shot well wide of goal, when an extra stride and touch would surely have set up an equaliser.
No further FA Cup glory – or prize money – for the Sports this season, then. Bloor’s squad will regroup, and they can still make a real impact in the National League South. But this was Horsham’s night.