Horsham manager Di Paola - The boys let us down at Merstham
Dominic Di Paola was left deeply disappointed by the performance of his players in Horsham’s 1-0 defeat at BetVictor Premier Division strugglers Merstham on Saturday.
The Hornets’ play-off aspirations took a hit when Calvin Ekpiteta struck what proved to be the winner just after the half-hour mark.
Horsham are now without an away league victory since the 2-0 win at Potters Bar Town on November 16.
Di Paola’s side remain in third, three points off second-placed Folkestone Invicta, but are just a point ahead of place-below Carshalton Athletic who have a game in hand.
The Horsham manager said: “In the first half we were really poor. Most of what we were doing wasn’t good and then they scored.
“We had a bit of a shout at half-time, which is not like us, and in the second half they played really well.
“But the boys let us down for the first time in the last two years.
“We had two one-on-ones that we missed in the first half and we should have had a stonewall penalty.
“In the second half we huffed and puffed and had loads of the ball but we just didn’t do a lot with it.
“For once I can be critical. I think we were poor on the day and Merstham threw everything at keeping their goal.
“It was frustrating for everyone involved. It was one of the few times this season I’ve been disappointed with what we did.”
Greg Cundle had a prodded effort saved by the legs of home keeper Matte Pierson but both sides struggled to get a foothold in the opening half-an-hour.
But the Moatsiders took the lead on 31 minutes. James O’Halloran’s cross from the right found Ekpiteta 12-yards from goal and the Merstham forward tidily finished past George Bentley.
The Hornets should have been level three minutes before the break. A pinpoint cross-field ball from Gary Charman, on his 600th appearance for the club, found Harvey Sparks in the area but the defender skewed his shot wide.
Horsham had a strong penalty shout turned down on the stroke of half-time. Steve Metcalf was brought down by James Richmond but the referee remained unmoved.
The second half saw the Hornets try to break down a Merstham defence that was content to sit deep in their own half.
Lea Dawson was crowded out in the box before seeing his shot charged down. Rob O’Toole then saw a 20-yard effort fly wide.
Horsham’s best chance of the game came with a little help from a Merstham player on 75 minutes.
Substitute Lee Harding’s cross saw Luke Ige crash the ball against his own crossbar in a panicked attempt at a clearance.
The ball bounced down off the line but Merstham cleared and held on to win.
Horsham: Bentley, Metcalf, Sparks, Kelly, Charman (Lavery 78), Miles, O’Toole (Harding 69), Dawson, Cundle, Mills, Roberts (Harris 50). Unused: Brivio, Smith.