Horsham captain Michael Thornely insisted his side will 'be back stronger' after their relegation was confirmed with a 65-run defeat at Three Bridges on Saturday.
Horsham went into the game knowing that a win was essential if they wanted any chance of survival, but a feeble batting performance, that has become all too common, undid the excellent work of the bowlers and condemned them to relegation to Division 2 for the first time in their history.
The day started brightly for the visitors as they won the toss and elected to field, and it didn’t take them long to put a dent in Three Bridges’ hopes of a victory.
Horsham, led by the bowling of James Brehaut (4-22), quickly dismissed the home side’s openers, with Bridges finding themselves at 13-5 and on their way to an embarrassing total.
Four quick wickets from Brehaut looked to be setting Horsham up for an easily catchable score, but composed batting by Bridges’ Oliver Blandford (52) ensured that the home side reached three figures with time to spare.
Horsham continued taking wickets consistently but the Three Bridges lower order scored runs steadily and guided their side to a total of 153-9.
Only Tom Blandford (24) and Arran Brown (26*) exceeded ten for the home side in an innings that was largely dominated by relegation-threatened Horsham, with George Garton (2-9) and Jonathan Whiting (2-42) bowling well.
However, the game quickly turned in the second innings when Horsham lost opener Tom Clark for zero with the score at just one, and this was a sign of things to come for the away side’s batters.
Only Michael Thornely (26), Paul Williams (21) and Garton (15) reached double figures for the side sitting bottom of the Premier Division, as five wickets in the space of 11 runs made Bridges’ low total suddenly seem impossible to catch, and Horsham plummeted to 88 all out after just 22.1 overs.
Relegation sees Horsham drop out of the Premier Division for the first time after a woeful campaign that has seen just three wins with two games left of the season, and captain Thornely knows that his side were second best on Saturday.
After an excellent bowling display, he admitted he was ‘confident’ going into the second innings, but once the wickets started falling, the defeat that was to seal their fate looked inevitable.
Thornely said: “We set the tone brilliantly with the ball. George Garton and James Brehaut bowled beautifully. Brehaut got four very quick wickets and got us off to the perfect start really.
“At half time I was confident, but I thought their strongest suit was bowling and they picked up wickets in regular intervals, so we never really got an opportunity to get a partnership together and fell well short.”
He continued: “They bowled well, they’re a good bowling unit. We weren’t able to build a partnership, we kept losing wickets at regular intervals, and you’re never going to win a game if that’s the case.
“It just needed someone to stick around and bat the majority of the overs and we probably would’ve got over the line, but it wasn’t to be.
“People have been low on confidence and things like that and they made it difficult for us. They deserved to win but that obviously means that we’ve officially been relegated.”
Now Horsham have officially dropped down to Division 2, Thornely took the chance to reflect on a difficult campaign, but insisted that Horsham will bounce back stronger than ever and taste success in the future.
He said: “The relegation thing is a shame, but there’s far more things that we can look at from a positive point of view.
“It’s a big club, we’ll have lots of success in the future and I think every club goes through ups and downs and this is our down. We’ll be coming back stronger for sure and hopefully bouncing back straight away.”
Horsham end their long Premier Division stay with games against East Grinstead and Brighton & Hove, and will be looking to go out on a high after the most disappointing season the club has ever seen.