Dominic Di Paola credited his ‘excellent’ players after they battled past Newhaven to win 3-1 in extra-time to progress into the third round of the Sussex Senior Cup on Tuesday night.
Will Miles headed in an early opener as the Hornets dominated for the majority of the game however, Lee Robinson’s last minute equaliser forced the game into extra-time.
But the BetVictor Premier table-toppers’ fitness proved crucial as Joe Shelley and Harvey Sparks’ rattled in two more to seal Horsham’s passage into the next round.
It was the third time in four years that the Hornets had faced Newhaven at this stage of the competition, but, as Di Paola explained, the two division gap between the sides was narrowed thanks to a difficult playing surface.
Di Paola said: “It was an impossible pitch to play on. The first ten minutes we played really well but as soon as the pitch cut up it was just a lottery.
“Massive credit to the boys because it was a bit of a banana skin and the pitch was a leveller. There was no way we could play how we normally play.
“It didn’t make a particularly good spectacle for those who’ve paid to watch but we’re just pleased we got through it.”
With 49 league places separating them from their SCFL Premier hosts, the difference in quality was clear from the outset.
The Hornets took the lead on ten minutes when an unmarked Miles powered in a firm header from a Kieron Pamment corner.
Meanwhile, Alex Kelly was unfortunate not to double the Hornets lead on the hour mark after a strike rebounded off both posts.
The Dockers took the game into extra-time with a late equaliser when Robinson stabbed in a deflected free-kick from close-range but Horsham got back in front in the deciding half-hour.
Shelley smashed in after a miscued Gary Charman effort before the hosts imploded with Mo Diallo and manager Sean Breach both sent off and the Hornets made the most of their one-man advantage when Sparks fired in a deflected shot.
Horsham: Bentley, Metcalf, Sparks, Kelly, Shelley, Miles (Mills 93), O’Toole, Harris (Charman 76), Smith, Pamment (O’Sullivan 76), Harding.