KERY KEDZE struck in the last minute of extra-time to hand Horsham the Brighton Charity Cup after an enthralling final against Worthing on Wednesday night.
The rain-lashed final at the Rebel’s Woodside Road was even and open throughout, and with the game destined for penalties winger Kedze slotted home at the back post to give the Hornets a dramatic 3-2 victory which avenges the defeat to Worthing in last year’s final.
There were party scenes as Horsham’s soaked players lifted the trophy in front on their jubilant supporters, and it was the perfect way to end a troubled season which has seen the club relegated from the Ryman Premier League.
It was also an important show of character from a Hornets side missing several players as well as their manager Simon Colbran, who was denied a return to his former club.
Paul Kennett headed an early chance onto the crossbar and Ryan McBride failed to convert another Worthing chance before Charlie Farmer nodded Horsham into a 40th minute lead from Scott Harris’s freekick.
Worthing struck back on the stroke of half-time from the penalty spot. Harris caught Jamie Brotherton in the box and although Hornets keeper Michael Hunter saved Mike Huckett’s first attempt from 12 yards, the Rebels midfielder slotted home the rebound.
Ryan McBride missed with a free header six yards out at the start of the second half and the striker then went close with a lobbed effort from just inside the box. Brotherton missed another good Worthing chance soon after, poking a shot straight at Hunter when he looked surprised not to be caught offside, but the former Horsham man then did find the net, turning a defender well in the box before firing low into the net.
Horsham then took their turn to level with their first chance of the second half on 78 minutes when Ryan Marriott’s fine cross picked out Dan Morris, who made it 2-2 with his head.
Worthing came close to winning it in stoppage time at the end of normal time when Steve Metcalf crashed a header onto the bar and Luke Gedling skied the rebound on the volley.
As the rain lashed down both sides poured forward in search of an extra-time winner. Assistant manager Wayne Clarke, who took charge of the Hornets in the absence of Colbran, brought himself on and nearly won it, nodding another fine Marriott cross just over the bar, and fellow substitute Adam Hutchings saw a long-range freekick deceive Rebels keeper Mansfield and rebound back off the goal post.
With just seconds left on the clock before penalties Clarke worked a yard of space on the right and his low cross rolled all the way to Kedze at the back post, who pounced to send the long-suffering Horsham fans into rapture and hand the cup to Horsham.
Pictured by John Lines is skipper Callum Dunne lifting the trophy alongside Dan Morris.