Horsham set for festive break with nine-day lull after derby clash with ‘experience’ laden Haywards Heath

Rob O'Toole delivered the Horsham fans an early Christmas present with a hat-trick in their 4-2 victory over league leaders Cray Wanderers. Picture by John Lines
Rob O'Toole delivered the Horsham fans an early Christmas present with a hat-trick in their 4-2 victory over league leaders Cray Wanderers. Picture by John Lines

Horsham can enjoy an extra portion of turkey and a Christmas Day tipple this year with the rarity of a festive break meaning they have a nine-day lull from action over the holiday period.

The Hornets are without a game on Boxing Day and in fact after this Saturday’s derby clash with Haywards Heath are not in action again until next year - New Year’s Day to be precise.

It’s polar opposites from last year when they were forced to travel to the Channel Islands on December 26 to face Guernsey - coincidently their visitors this year on January 1.

The Hornets climbed up to third in the Bostik League South East Division on Saturday as they inflicted a shock defeat on leaders Cray Wanderers. A Rob O’Toole hat-trick helped them send The Wands to their first defeat of the season and was the perfect response to their own unbeaten run being ended by Three Bridges.

Looking ahead to next week after another derby with Heath on Saturday, Horsham manager Dominic Di Paola admitted he likes his festive football fix, but feels it will be a good opportunity for his side to recharge their batteries as have a well-earned break.

He said: “Clubs were given the option of having a Boxing Day game and a lot said they did not want them. Personally, I actually like a Boxing Day game as it gets me out the house - as we all know, I just did not like Guernsey game last year!

“It does give the boys a bit of time off and time with their families. A few of the lads have had children recently so it gives them a bit more time with them.

“It is what it is, it’s a bit of time off and keeps people fresh rather than playing three games in a short space of time.”

The Hornets travel to Hanbury Stadium to take on a promoted Heath side that have already beaten them 5-4 in a thrilling league encounter this season.

That defeat sparked Horsham’s season into life and they have since been on a run of one loss in 12 games.

Horsham had previously beaten Shaun Saunders’ side in Velocity Trophy action in August, but a win on Saturday could lift Heath to level on points with Horsham.

Di Paola said: “They have a lot of experience and are a very good side. When you look at their team, Josh Heyburn is an excellent goalkeeper and historically only commitment issues has meant he’s not played higher.

“Karly Akehurst was an excellent prospect at Worthing as a youngster. There is Byron Napper, who has been around the circuit and played for Horsham in the Premier Division.

“The big lad Melford Simpson and Andrew Dalhouse has scored goals for Redhill and Walton & Hersham - he’s been about a bit. Callum Saunders is an excellent player and has played for his dad, but could have played higher.

“They have come up and done well, you have to take your hat off to them.”

For Horsham, Kieran Lavery will play the last game of his loan spell before returning to parent club Dorking Wanderers.

James McElligott remains on loan at Horley Town having played last Saturday and Di Paola hinted one more could go out on loan for game time.