‘It would have been a travesty if it had even gone to a replay’ that is how good value Horsham manager Dominic Di Paola felt his side were for their place in the third-qualifying round of the FA Cup.
The Hornets came from 2-0 down to overcome Bostik League North Division Heybridge Swifts in a 4-3 victory during what was a thrilling encounter at Culver Road on Saturday.
Swifts took the lead in the sixth minute through George Craddock’s low and deflected finish and made it 2-0 eight minutes later through Alejandro Seoane-Barbe.
Steve Metcalf pulled it back to 2-1 on 19 minutes, before Joe Shelley headed home an equaliser before half-time.
The visitors led again just after the hour mark as Nick Brown’s deflected strike beat Josh Pelling, but with 15 minutes remaining, Rob O’Toole’s tap in from Harvey Sparks’ cross put the hosts level.
The remarkable comeback was sealed six minutes from time when Chris Smith pounced on a parried save from Danny Sambridge.
Frustrations boiled over for the visitors as Luke Callender was dismissed late on as Horsham pocketed a cool £9,000 prize money and have since been drawn at home against Southern League Premier Division South Poole Town on October 6.
Di Paola was delighted with the win and the contribution from both his starting XI, substitutes and management team in the victory.
The Hornets boss said: “It was a good game of football and I really enjoyed it as well as thinking we were good for the win. I think it would have been a travesty if it had even gone to a replay.
“I thought we were by far the better team and they did not really trouble Josh, although we did start badly in the first 15 minutes when they were the better side. Two goals came from deflections and we were unfortunate to 2-0 down, but the boys were good, stayed focussed, showed real determination and did not give in.
“We could have been 4-2 up at half-time and we kept our composure and kept playing. In the second half, they scored against the run of play and I said on the sidelines it didn’t feel like it was going to be our day.
“At 3-3 the subs really contributed massively and when it was 3-3 we went even more brave to try and win the game - we changed the formation to get the game done.
“I was thinking of making a change before we equalised and then thought I’d hang on, maybe it’s the Italian in me, but credit to Wezzo (Adam Westwood) and Jon (Meeney) for convincing me to go that way. We have a good group of players and a good squad. The subs came on to win us the game after the others had got us into a position to win it.
“It was a really good game of football and it takes two team to make a good game. It was just a bit of a shame there were not more there watching as it’s the type of game you’re happy to pay to watch.”
Horsham: Pelling, Metcalf (Richardson-Brown 76), Shelley, Hyde, Taylor, Harding, Harris (Brivio 77), Coleman, Hoare (Sparks 70), O’Toole, Smith. Unused: Hayward, Lovegrove, McElligott.