Di Paola satisfied with performance in Sittingbourne defeat and felt Horsham deserved more

Chris Smith, pictured playing for Burgess Hill last season, netted on his Horsham debut and was praised for his performance. SR1631498. Picture by Steve Robards
Chris Smith, pictured playing for Burgess Hill last season, netted on his Horsham debut and was praised for his performance. SR1631498. Picture by Steve Robards

Horsham manager Dominic Di Paola felt his side were more than worthy of a point in their opening-day defeat at home to Sittingbourne on Saturday.

The Hornets found themselves 2-0 down inside 17 minutes at Culver Road as Tom Loynes and Ira Jackson gave the Brickies a comfortable lead as the home side struggled to find a rhythm in their Bostik League South East Division clash.

And while they improved before the break, pulling a goal back from debutant Chris Smith, they then played for more than an hour and were unable to find an equaliser despite having the better chances.

The Hornets started eight of their summer signings and while the Kent side took the points, Di Paola was fairly satisfied with his side’s showing.

He said: “We let in a couple of early goals, but I was not too disappointed with the performance. Once we got going I thought we played pretty well to be fair.

“When it went to 2-1, I thought we would go one and get something out of the game. We had enough chances in the second half to potentially do that.

“We had a look at the stats and we created more chances, had more possession, but at the end of the day, the winner of the game is the winner of the game.

“It was a new group that we have put together and Lewis Hyde was out injured, which was a loss. But we grew into the game. We got better and better.

“We do need to be a bit braver though. At 2-1 we tried to force the result, we could have been a bit more patient in the build-up and I think we would have created more chances.

“I was gutted about the result, because I think we had enough to beat them. At times last season, I felt we were nowhere near sides, but we were more than deserving of a point, maybe not a win.

“But we do need to get out the traps quicker and still play like we want to play.”

The first chance went the visitor’s way as Bola Dawodu’s free header went narrowly wide of Josh Pelling’s post - the keeper a somewhat surprise inclusion after Brannon Daly playing the majority of pre-season.

Sittingbourne led in the eighth minute when Ira Jackson’s cross found Tom Loynes, whose header at the far post just crossed the line.

Dan Parkinson had a great chance to extend the lead but put his effort wide, before Dawodu slid into Jackson who finished well on 17 minutes.

The Hornets pulled a goal back on 35 minutes when George Hayward’s defence-splitting pass for Smith saw the striker finish past the onrushing goalkeeper.

Horsham upped the pressure after the break and were soon on the attack as Rob O’Toole’s cross was attacked by Lee Harding and he collided with the goalkeeper giving away a free kick.

Darren Boswell replaced Hayward and he was immediately into the action; shooting at goalkeeper Patrick Lee, before teeing up O’Toole, who shot wide.

A decent corner then just evaded O’Toole, before a Harding header was saved and the follow-up block. From the resulting corner, a Joe Shelley header was also blocked away.

Pelling made a full-length save to deny Jackson and then had to claim another troublesome Lewis Chambers long throw as Horsham failed to find a leveller at the other end.

Di Paola added: “Chris Smith was excellent and for me, our man of the match. I do not think he did much wrong at all.”

Horsham: Pelling, Metcalf (Landais 85), Coleman, Shelley, Taylor, Hoare (Richardson-Brown 85), Harris, Haywards (Boswell 60), Harding, O’Toole, Smith. Unused: Farmer, McElligott.