Holders Horsham booked their place in the final of the Sussex Cup as they eased to victory in a battle at Hastings.
In a weekend of knock-out action nationwide, Sussex Cup holders Horsham travelled to Hastings’ Horntye Park to play South Saxons – a team three divisions lower in the hockey league pyramid.
With a string of losses to end 2016, they were not only looking for a confidence booster but a passport to collecting some silverware in what might otherwise turn out to be a disappointing season.
The result, including a hat-trick from short corner specialist Matt Hough, was a good start to 2017.
Skipper Andy Isaacs was forced to field a somewhat depleted team, Ellis Wooley has a broken nose, Andy McIlwraith a broken thumb and Joey Humphreys was rushed to hospital just before Christmas with a ruptured appendix.
However, the squad was boosted by the debut of midfielder Sean Percy, a new recruit from Woking.
From the start, Saxons set up to defend, preferring to try to hit Horsham on the break.
This somewhat negative approach meant 80 per cent of the play in the first period was in the home half, Saxons managing to frustrate the visitors until a few minutes before the break when Horsham won a short corner. Hough duly stepped up and converted to ease Horsham nerves.
The second half was more of the same, Isaacs having little to do in goal, but Saxons’ packed defence shutting out the chances of field goals.
Hough twice more obliged from short corner set pieces before a break by Burroughs split the defence. His cross set Barney Knights-Johnson one-on-one with Saxons’ keeper, and his reverse stick shot slammed into the back-board for the fourth goal.
“We’ve been struggling for goals, and struggling to convert short corners so dropping down a couple of levels was a good warm-up for the second half of the league season,” manager Al Campbell commented.
“Next week we travel to league leaders Bromley and Beckenham which will be an altogether stiffer prospect.”
Horsham now have a real shot at victory in the competition after the county’s national league clubs opted out due to fixture conflicts.
That means that having reached the final Horsham will again meet opposition from a lower division.
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