What a week for Horsham skipper Andrew Isaacs.
On Tuesday his wife Siobhan gave birth to their first son, Alfie. On Saturday, somewhat sleep deprived, he marshalled a clean sheet against Old Cranleighans in a man of the match performance that included shutting out seven short corners and saving a penalty.
The tight score bears no relation to the chances created either end of the park – Cranleighans by winning short corners, Horsham conspicuously failing to win short corners but threatening from open play. With more composure John Burroughs and Ollie Yeomans could both have netted for the home side.
Legendary NFL coach Bill Belichick famously said ‘defence wins championships’. Horsham may not be up for league honours but if they approach their final four fixtures with this level of grit and determination they have every chance of keeping a toehold in this division, which looked unlikely on January 1.
OCs, mid-table and with no risk of relegation, played their typical hard, fast skilful hockey.
Yet Horsham were superior in all areas, setting the defensive press at 60 metres and comfortably soaking up the pressure.
The introduction of former German under-21 international and Cambridge Blue Nik Rieger added yet more class and skill to a midfield unit that is now probably the best in the league - able to breakdown play and counter-attack at speed. Such a counter led to the winning goal, Freddie Campbell collecting a loose ball and launching a pass down the wing that left the entire Horsham forward line three on two with Cranleighans defence. Ellis Wooley combined with Burroughs, who slipped the ball to Barney Knights-Johnson, clear in front of goal, to tap in.
OCs continued to push and had the opportunity to level from the penalty spot. With almost telepathic ease Isaacs dived to his right and tipped the ball round the post with his stick.
Commenting on his first game at Horsham, Rieger said: “They were a hard, tough team but basically we wanted it more – this was a real team performance and the determination to win was always ours.”
The result lifts Horsham above the relegation zone. They have everything to play for.