Horsham v Cray Wanderers – Bostik League South-East – Saturday 15th December, 2018
O’Toole 19, 30, 61, Harris 82
Cray Wanderers 2
Mundele 24, Johnson 53
Cray Wanderers record 15 game unbeaten start to the Bostik South-East season came to an end against third placed Horsham on a cold and rain-lashed afternoon at Culver Road with Rob O’Toole scoring a hat-trick for the home side. This cut Cray’s lead at the top to eight points over Hastings United and Horsham.
Despite the conditions there was a lot to admire about the football on show with Cray twice falling behind in the first half hour to two O’Toole strikes with Ben Mundele’s classy leveller in between. The rain seemed to get worse after the break but Cray began the second half well and drew level once again when Archie Johnson struck his second goal of the season on 53 minutes. However, O’Toole glanced home a close range header just after the hour to restore the Hornets lead. Cray looked to level once again but eight minutes from time, Charlie Harris sealed victory for Horsham with a superb run and strike from 20 yards.
Cray had drawn their last two league games and last Saturday drew 1-1 with Phoenix Sports. From that side there three changes with Nick Blue returning in goal for Jordan Carey, Archie Johnson for Jerome Federico and Karl Dent for Zak Henry. Horsham had an eight game unbeaten run which took them up third before losing at Three Bridges on Tuesday night.
The match started in steady rain which lasted the duration of the game but both sides set out at a quick pace on the slick playing surface with Horsham having the edge in the first quarter of an hour. Firstly down the right, Kieran Lavery saw an effort inside the area blocked and following Rob O’Toole fired just over the bar. Then Tyrell Richardson-Brown who had a fine game down the right latched on to a through ball, took the ball round Blue but the angle was tight and the ball across was blocked and then cleared.
The nearest Cray came early on was from a cross-shot down the right from Karl Dent which was gathered by keeper Josh Pelling. Then for Horsham came the best chance when another fine cross from Richardson-Brown was cleared out to Lavery who lashed a volley over at the right post.
A goal was coming and did so in the 19th minute when Cray lost possession and Richardson-Brown’s ball into the box seemed to be wind affected and O’Toole reacted quickest to latch onto the pass, take the ball round Blue and rolled the ball into the net.
It didn’t take long though for Cray to draw level and on 24 minutes, a good ball from Jay Leader down the left put Ben Mundele through who took on Steve Metcalf and cut into the area and fired a crisp finish into the bottom right corner of the net to for his fifth goal of the season.
The game went from end to end after this and Junior Dadson saw a shot blocked and a fine Mundele cross just went across goal while for Horsham, Lavery shot wide.
On the half hour Horsham went back in front with another ball into the area which Charlie Harris got to and Blue did well to block but following up O’Toole rifled home the rebound despite Cray appeals for a foul in the buildup.
For the remainder of the half Horsham were mostly on top with Lavery coming close to scoring a third while from a corner the ball came to Dylan Merchant whose header was blocked by a Cray defender. For the Wands, Joe Taylor saw an effort blocked and out for a corner but half time came as a relief to both sets of players who ran off with great haste to get dry and warm.
Half Time: 2-1
Any hope that the break might have quelled the rain were dashed as it seemed to get even more swirly and wintry. Cray began the second half much better and played some good football pinning Horsham back for a spell.
On 53 minutes Cray levelled for a second time with a well worked goal ending with Mundele finding Taylor who slipped a pass through to Archie Johnson down the left who from just inside the area finished expertly drilling a shot into the bottom right corner to make it 2-2.
Shortly after, Johnson played a similar ball through to Taylor but just couldn’t get the ball under control and Pelling came out to claim the ball.
It just seemed that Cray were on top when on 61 minutes fell behind when down the left Harvey Sparks did well to keep the ball in play close to the touchline and his ball towards the near post was met by the head of O’Toole who glanced a header into the net to claim a hat-trick.
Cray looked to come back once again and a Barney Williams cross from the right was well claimed by Pelling and then Dent down the left hit a shot from 20 yards which was deflected behind for a corner.
Horsham continued to press for a fourth goal and Lavery set up Richardson-Brown down the right whose shot was well saved by Blue and the ball was cleared. This was followed by O’Toole giving a return pass to Charlie Harris who broke into the area but lofted an effort over the top.
Cray battled hard but couldn’t quite find a way to get back into the game for a third time with Taylor being found by Bradley Pritchard inside the area but his effort was blocked by Merchant.
On 82 minutes Horsham did score the fourth with Harris picking up the ball in midfield, made a good run forward and rifled home a superb shot into the top left hand corner of the net from close to 25 yards.
Horsham were able to see out fairly comfortably the remaining minutes and the players and official were happy to reach the sanctuary of the changing room to escape the rain.
Despite Cray’s best efforts this just wasn’t going to be their day but Horsham had played particularly well and this was their seventh straight league win at home and moved to eight points behind Cray. They certainly looked a lot stronger than last season’s side and will be hard to beat at home.
The Wands for their part after the tremendous start to the season have nothing to be ashamed of and played their part in a very good match despite the trying conditions and well done to Tony Russell and all the players for setting such great standards since August with twelve wins, three draws and one defeat.
Cray will look to return to winning ways next Sunday in the first of their two Christmas fixtures against Sittingbourne at Hayes Lane.
Cray Wanderers: Nick Blue, Barney Williams (Capt.), Archie Johnson (Lee Lewis, 80), Jay Leader, Mitchell Nelson, Bradley Pritchard, Sean Roberts, Karl Dent, Joe Taylor, Junior Dadson (Jerome Federico, 65), Ben Mundele (Malik Solebo, 86). Subs: Malik Solebo, Marcus Evans, Lee Lewis
Horsham: Josh Pelling, Steve Metcalf, Harvey Sparks, Charlie Harris, Joe Shelley, Dylan Merchant, Jack Brivio (Capt.), George Hayward, Rob O’Toole (Chris Smith, 78), Kieran Lavery (Dean Lovegrove, 90) Tyrell Richardson-Brown (Lee Harding, 84): Subs: Lewis Hyde, Joey Taylor
Referee: Kirsty Dowle
Assistants: Sam Gregory, Paul Hitchcott