A depleted Horsham fell to their first league defeat on Saturday as boss Dominic Di Paola conceded a ‘perfect storm’ of circumstances hampered their efforts.
The Hornets went down 2-1 away to fellow Southern Combination League Premier Division title chasers Eastbourne Town.
The visitors went into the game without a recognised centre-forward as well as missing Jordan Clark and Kevin Keehan only fit enough for the bench.
Victory for the home side ensured they continued their unbeaten run in the league as the Hornets conceded top spot to Newhaven with the defeat.
With Scott Murfin returning to Pagham last week, Horsham were also missing Terry Dodd and Evan Archibald. Midfielder Mike Huckett helped out by playing his first game of the season and under-18s Connor Bull and Tom Jarman were called up for the bench.
But with Samir Hadi equalising for the visitors early in the second half, both he and Darren Boswell also then picked up injuries leaving Town to net a late winner
Di Paola said: “I think with the circumstances we were a bit unfortunate and a draw probably would have been fair. We had more chances and it was quite an even game, but they took theirs.
“Uncharacteristic errors at the back cost us two goals. Both came from mistakes which is unlike us, but that’s football.
“As well as the unavailability Mark Knee, Kieron Pamment and Joe Shelley were playing injured so it was a tough day all-round.
“Mike Huckett did us a favour of playing on the day, but when Samir and Darren got injured ten minutes into the second half, we never looked like scoring as we had no striker which was difficult.
“I have never had a week like it, from Wednesday it was just one disaster after another. It’s hard to deal with, but the nature of the level we are at. You have to grin a bare it. It’s just unfortunate that three key players were away for the same game against a team at the top of the table.
“A good thing is that there is not another team in our league that could go there with the problems we had and of been competitive as we were. On that side of it it’s a good sign.
“Eastbourne are playing Newhaven tomorrow night so only one can be five points ahead of us and best case it’s only three points which is one win. It’s early days and it was a perfect storm of circumstances this week.”
But Horsham started well and in the first minute, Pamment’s dangerous cross was put behind for corner, at the other end, Town found the net as Kenny Pogue finished from a ball from the left only to be penalised for a push.
The home side’s domination began to tell and they took the lead on 22 minutes when a long ball from defence eluded Alex Duncan and Wes Tait went through to fire past Gareth Williams.
Joe Shelley found make-shift striker Boswell with a terrific through-ball and his shot from the left forced Eastbourne keeper Greg Nessling to save at full stretch.
The travelling fans thought they had equalised on 33 minutes when Pamment found the net from Mark Knee’s headed cross, but he was adjudged to have done so from an offside position.
Horsham didn’t have long to wait in the second half for an equaliser as Boswell cut the ball back and Samir Hadi was on hand to fire home from 12 yards.
The scorer, however, injured his ankle in the process and was replaced by debutant Huckett - Boswell was also then helped off after having a shot blocked by Nessling and replaced by Keehan.
Shelley headed agonisingly wide from a free-kick, before Eastbourne secured victory on 81 minutes as a cross eluded Williams, whose handling had seemed so safe throughout, for Pogue to score from close range.
Horsham: Williams, Duncan, Jones, Farmer, Knee, Hunt, Shelley, Lewis, Pamment, Hadi, Boswell. Subs: Keehan, Huckett, Bull, Jarman.
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