Horsham boss Dominic Di Paola hailed Saturday’s 3-0 home win over Corinthian Casuals in the first qualifying round of the FA Trophy as the best performance from his side since he’s been at the club.
The Hornets were 2-0 up at half-time through goals from Joe Shelley and Rob O’Toole as Josh Pelling saved a penalty.
Substitute Jack Brivio wrapped up a convincing win at the death to send Horsham in to the next round of the tournament.
Di Paola said: “The boys were really, really good. I think it’s probably our best performance since I’ve been at Horsham and it was a really good performance.
“I think we’re growing as a group. It was a really new group at the start of the season with loads of new players and I’ve been really pleased with how the lads have done all season. Saturday was a lovely one to be involved in.”
Horsham took the lead on 16 minutes as George Hayward delivered an inch-perfect cross into the box for Shelley to head home.
The hosts doubled their lead on 30 minutes as O’Toole took the ball down in the box and showed brilliant composure to knock the ball home.
Casuals were handed a lifeline two minutes later as Shelley upended Jordan Clarke in the box to give the visitors a chance from the penalty spot.
Warren Mfula looked to send Pelling the wrong way but he produced a stunning save down to his left to keep the penalty out as the half drew to a close.
In the opening minutes of the second half, Horsham had yet more chances as Shelley’s header from a corner was turned away and Chris Smith’s follow up was kept out.
Casual’s Coskun Ekim nearly put the ball in own net before recovering to block Shelley. The resulting corner should have seen the Hornets go three up but Dean Lovegrove’s attempt was saved by the Casuals ‘keeper and Smith’s follow up went wide.
Man of the match Tyrell Richardson-Brown was then brought down in the box by Ekim but the referee, after considering the appeal, waved play on.
An injury to Casuals’ Thomas Smith forced the visitors down to ten men after they had used up all their subs and Horsham duly added the third as Brivio tucked home from a drilled Richardson-Brown cross four minutes into added time.
Di Paola praised the attitude of his squad and felt that Lovegrove and Hayward ‘epitomised’ this attitude.
He added: “It’s credit to the players that they’re all giving their all and I think the beauty of the team that we’ve got this year is that some of them don’t play every game, some of them come in and out, and when they do play their attitudes are superb. Even when they come off the bench their attitudes are superb.
“We made a few changes to the starting 11 and Dean Lovegrove and George Hayward came in and they epitomised for me what we’ve got this year.
“They’re two lads who deserve to play week-in week-out for any team because they always play well and they’ve had to bide their time a little bit.”
Horsham make two trips to Kent in the league this week as they take on Ramsgate on Tuesday (7:45pm k.o.) before travelling to Ashford United on Saturday.
Horsham: Pelling, Metcalf, Lovegrove, Harris, Shelley, Merchant, Hoare, Hayward, O’Toole, Smith, Richardson-Brown. Subs: Hyde, Brivio, McElligott, Baxter.