Horsham manager Dominic Di Paola tipped Whitehawk to retain the Sussex Senior Cup as they comfortable eased into the fourth round last night.
The National League South side featured a full-strength side that included former Crawley trio Sergio Torres, Dean Leacock and Scott Neilson in 4-0 win at the Enclosed Ground.
Having not yet played in 2016, the Hawks were only missing Jake Robinson, who came on to net their fourth goal, which added to first-half strikes from Sam Deering and Arnaud Mendy and an own goal after Ash Jones’ unfortunate deflection early in the second half.
Despite that, Di Paola was buoyant and said: “I am relatively happy - after the first 20 minutes when we were really nervy we did ourselves justice, especially considering we played for a long time with ten men on Saturday.
“I think we did alright. We did ok and were not far off in terms of possession and shots, but they were well worthy of the win.
“It was better than training for us, although at times a bit of a training match for them, but a good challenge.
“I think if they keep that approach in each round, I cannot see anyone else winning it now - unless they have key league games between the rounds.
“When they were 2-0 up in the second half they coasted, until then they played to their maximum.
“After that they did to us what we have done to teams this season, played within ourselves a bit. People said we really got into it second half, but that was the reason.
“It was a good test for us and a shame in the goals we let in. The goalkeeper should have done better with the first, the second we couldn’t complain, the third was a bit of a mistake at the back and the fourth, we were a bit tired by then and did not pick up well enough in the box.”
The Hawks dominated the early proceedings, going closest as David Martin’s effort flew over the bar before they took the lead on 13 minutes.
From a Torres run, the ball fell to Deering whose shot from distance flew beyond the diving Gareth Williams, whose fingertips weren’t enough to get the ball away.
After a poor start, Horsham’s first chance saw Darren Boswell unable to get away a shot from outside the box, but moments later, Whitehawk doubled their led as Deering teed up Mendy, whose shot bounced past Williams.
At the start of the second half, Charlie Farmer’s header was cleared off the line, but within four minutes it was 3-0 as David Martin’s shot looped up off Jones and into the net.
Joe Shelley’s shot from distance that came back off the crossbar as it proved Horsham’s luck was out and Hawks sealed the win as Rose smashed home from a flicked-on corner.
Horsham: Williams, Duncan, Jones, Hunt, Knee, Pamment, Hunt, Shelley, Boswell, Archibald, Dodd. Subs: Keehan, Lewis, Atkinson, Charles, Burfiend.
More reaction from Di Paola on why the defeat will see his side on a learning curve in tomorrow’s West Sussex County Times.