Horsham 1, Hastings United 1: Injury-time Metcalf strike sees Hornets grab a point in intense play-off place encounter

Horsham full-back Steve Metcalf grabbed a dramatic injury-time equaliser against Hastings United. Picture by John Lines
Horsham full-back Steve Metcalf grabbed a dramatic injury-time equaliser against Hastings United. Picture by John Lines

Steve Metcalf's dramatic injury-time equaliser saw Horsham earn a deserved share of the spoils in a intense Bostik League South East play-off encounter at a sodden Culver Road this evening.

A full-throttle evening, which pitted a fourth-placed Horsham against their place-abov evisitors Hastings United, looked to have been decided by The Arrows' Jordy Mongoy's second-half strike.

He outpaced Joe Shelley on the left flank and finished well across goal with just over 30 minutes left to play. And with both defences standing strong, that looked to be enough to give Hastings their first win in three as the clocked ticked down.

But Horsham were to grab a share of the spoils not no-one could begrudge them, especially after their efforts in just edging a ferociously-contested first-half.

With time in the fourth added minute, a Joe Shelley half volley was tipped on the bar by the excellent Charlie Horlock and after a couple of blocks in the ensuing scramble, Metcalf tucked to send the majority of the crowd into raptures.

Going into the clash and as a result of a 1-1 draw at home to Guernsey on Saturday, Hastings had dropped behind new second place occupants Ashford United on goal difference.

Horsham, whose weekend match at East Grinstead was postponed due to the recent snap of bad weather, sat fourth, four points behind but having played a game less.

The host made three changes from the team that won 1-0 against Ramsgate ten days ago. New signing Will Miles came in for his debut in place of the suspended Lewis Hyde, Tyrell Richardson-Brown replaced the injured Charlie Harris and Chris Smith came in for Kieran Lavery.

Hastings made one changed from Saturday with Sam Cruttwell not playing, and in his place came Youssouf Bamba to the starting XI. Both Ollie Black and Jack Dixon, who were sent off on Saturday, started, with their bans not applicable until the weekend.

The visitors should have led after just two minutes in what was a very sloppy start from Horsham. The driving rain played a part as pressure from a free kick was first put out for a goal kick, but from a short put-in that was passed from Metcalf to Jack Brivio, saw the latter scuff his pass and Sam Adams raced into the box one on one.

Josh Pelling did well to save at the midfielder's feet, but from that the ball fell to Jack Dixon, who took a couple of seconds to set himself as Horsham put bodies back behind the ball. The goal was still gaping, but the Hastings' player's effort clipped the outside of the post when he should have scored.

Horsham didn't let that early scare deter them and were soon on the attack themselves. From a corner, a Smith back heel struck an arm from close range and although there were appeals, there was little the visiting defender could have done to get out the way.

On 11 minutes, George Hayward chested up a loose ball on the edge of the box from another corner and his volley forced a fine one-handed diving stop from Horlock.

The goalkeeper was called upon again moments later to deny Richardson-Brown, who met a cross from close range, but the stopper reacted to get it around the post.

Hastings' top scorer Daniel Ajakalye was booked for diving on the 20-minute mark. He threw himself to ground expecting contact from a Shelley lunge on the edge of the box, but with no contact, referee Simon Finnigan showed a yellow for simulation.

The pacy attacking threat from the visitors proved a constant threat and got the ball in or around the Horsham box, but they came up against a number of resistant bodies led by debutant Miles.

At the other end, Richardson-Brown broke away and skipped past two defenders, but his final ball from out wide was lacking.

Seven minutes before the break, a back-post downward header by Temitope Eweka saw Pelling get the slightest touch to turn onto the bar, before Shelley headed the follow-up off the line.

It was slow start to the second half compared to the first 45 minutes, and the opening goal came from nothing on 58 minutes. A ball clipped down the line by Black after a throw, saw Shelley barge into Mongoy on the touchline, but the striker showed good strength to stand up, drive into the box and finish across goal into the far corner.

Horsham responded quickly as a crossfield ball was put back inside by Richardson-Brown to Smith, but his tame effort was straight at Horlock. While an in-swinging Brivio corner was also beaten away by the stopper.

The hosts brought on Lavery and Scott Kirkwood - the latter making his first appearance of the season - in hope to salvage something as the encounter continued to rock from end to end.
With six minutes left to play, a deep Kirkwood free kick was headed into the path of O'Toole in the six-yard box, but he prodded wide of the target.

Many thought that was the last chance of what was a fantastic fixture, but deep into added time, some of which coming from Hastings' attempts to run the clock down, saw Metcalf steal the show and a point.

Hastings: Horlock, Eweka, Howlett-Mundle, Bamba (Climpson 80), Fielding, Lovatt, Dixon, Adams, Black, Ajakaiye, Mongoy (Curran 90). Unused: Walker-Barth, Janneh, Huil.

Horsham: Pelling, Metcalf, Shelley, Miles, Sparks, Richardson-Brown, Hayward (Kirkwood 76), Brivio, Harding, Smith (Lavery 68), O’Toole. Unused: Lovegrove, Merchant, Baxter.