'Incredible, unbelievable, phenomenal, emotional' - Horsham boss Di Paola on play-off victory and promotion

Horsham manager Dominic Di Paola. SR1720461
Horsham manager Dominic Di Paola. SR1720461

'Incredible, unbelievable, phenomenal, emotional' - safe to say Horsham manager Dominic Di Paola has sung the players, management and club's praises at their Bostik League play-off victory.

Dylan Merchant - the defender only playing having passed a late fitness test - headed home a 108th- minute free kick to send the Hornets to a 2-1 victory and back to a Premier Division that they last played in in 2011/12.

A crowd of 880 were treated to a thrilling game at Culver Road - good enough to grace any promotion shoot out clash - in which George Haywards' first-half stunner put the hosts ahead, before a Sam Corne penalty on the stroke of half-time leveled things up.

It didn't look like it would be Horsham's night when Rob O'Toole missed a second half penalty, but in the second half of extra-time, Merchant's header sent the hosts up from what was their first play-off final for 14 years.

Reacting at the final whistle, Di Paola said: "It's incredible. I am the least emotional human, my Mrs is always having a go at me for being unemotional, but I was pretty much gone there, I was almost gone.

"It's just unbelievable, what an incredible bunch of players. They never give up, they are never beaten, against all odds. It's been one of those incredible seasons and we have to enjoy the evening now, make the most of it and embrace what we have done. It's such an achievement."

On whether in his wildest dreams, Di Paola pictured his side playing Premier Division football next season, the manager said: "No, I have to be honest. You put a team together and you think you will do quite well, but you can't imagine and you can't put that into plan.

"When you seem the caliber of some of the sides in this league, I am proud and privileged to be involved with them.

"I want to thank Adam Westwood (assistant manager), Jimmy Punter and Steph, Daz the management team. The work we do, we are unpaid volunteers and we work our socks off. We couldn't work any harder for the football club.

"We are forever out watching games and scouting for the football club. Watching videos of the opposition - I have watched five or six videos of Ashford just in the last two days to try and get a view of them.

"The players take everything on, last minute last night we got training at Steyning and the boys dropped everything. Some drove two hours from London to train for 45 minutes. They are phenomenal bunch of players and they deserve everything they have got this season."

More reaction to follow over the next few day's and in Thursday's West Sussex County Times.