Horsham boss Di Paola pleased with performance against ‘best team in the league’

Ryman League South Division: Horsham v Herne Bay. Alfie Rogers. Pic Steve Robards SR1705077 SUS-170313-132139001
Ryman League South Division: Horsham v Herne Bay. Alfie Rogers. Pic Steve Robards SR1705077 SUS-170313-132139001

Horsham manager Dominic Di Paola wants his players to give themselves the credit they deserve after competing with a Cray Wanderers side that he feels are the best in the league.

The play-off chasers made it three wins out of three this season against the Hornets, as they secured the points in a 4-3 thriller at a snowy at Hayes Lane on Sunday.

Having already lost 8-0 in the FA Trophy and 3-0 in the reverse fixture in the league to the Wands this season, it looked as though it could be another tricky afternoon for the Hornets when they trailed 3-0 in the first half.

The visitors rallied and got back into the game through an Alfie Rogers goal and George Landais penalty, but Junior Dadson made the points safe for Cray with 15 minutes to play, before Lewis Hyde pulled another one back in the last action of the game.

And despite the result, Di Paola admitted he was pleased with his side’s showing and lauded the quality of a Cray side that included two-goal Charlie MacDonald and substitute Michael Power and Aaron Rhule.

The Horsham boss said: “I was quite happy with the performance and did not think we deserved to be 3-0 down when we were. On paper, they are the best team in the league.

“Up until they scored the first goal, for 20 minutes, I thought we were the better side. It was a bit of a sucker punch as Joe Shelley had a chance and Lewis Hyde slipped when he should have scored and they went up the other end and took the lead. That’s the clinical quality they have.

“We deviated from the game plan towards the end of the first half and they scored two more quick goals, but we showed some real character to score again before half-time.

“We faded a little bit towards the end, we have not played in three weeks and we looked a tired, but they have mountains and mountains of quality in their side. On the way home I was reeling off their players and what they have won and done in this league and the league above.

“I think they are the best team in the league, but what it does do is give me hope. While we will never compete financially, it gives me hope of competing when teams like that are not winning the league.

“I do not think our boys give themselves enough credit at times. When we play better sides in the league and compete as we do, they should feel proud. I think we did really well and in general I was happy with what we did compared to when we played them earlier in the season.

After Shelley and Hyde had gone close, Cray led on 21 minutes as Barney Williams’ run and cross resulted in Dadson forcing a save from Josh Pelling, before Charlie MacDonald put away the rebound.

On 37 minutes, Cray were awarded a penalty as Shelly brought down MacDonald and the Cray forward picked himself up to dispatch the spot kick. Three minutes later it was 3-0 as Karl Dent finished from just outside the box.

The Hornets did grab a lifeline before the break as Rogers fired in on the turn after Cray goalkeeper Nick Blue had fumbled a free kick.

Nine minutes into the second half, Horsham were awarded a penalty of their own. Darren Boswell was fouled just inside and Landais stepped up to smash the spot kick home.

MacDonald glanced a header just wide and Shelley volleyed over the bar. But it was Cray that grabbed the important six goal of the game when substitute Rhule delivered a cross that was volleyed home by Dadson.

Cray had the better chances to extend their lead until Hyde headed home a late free kick with time almost up.

Horsham: Pelling, Metcalf, Hyde, Shelley, B.Rogers, Boswell (Street 68), Worrall, Adelakun (Axell 83), Nwachukwu, A.Rogers (Gayler 56), Landais. Unsed: Watson.