‘Magnificent’ players saluted as Horsham land Bostik League play-off spot

Herne Bay v Horsham. Kieran Lavery has just netted the winning goal. Picture by John Lines
Herne Bay v Horsham. Kieran Lavery has just netted the winning goal. Picture by John Lines

Manager Dominic Di Paola saluted his ‘magnificent’ Horsham players which have secured the club a Bostik League South East Division play-off place.

The Hornets won their penultimate away game in Kent on Saturday, beating Herne Bay 3-2 to ensure they cannot now finish outside of the top five - with two games to spare.

Herne Bay v Horsham. Chris Smith slots home his opener. Picture by John Lines

Herne Bay v Horsham. Chris Smith slots home his opener. Picture by John Lines

Goals from Chris Smith, Lee Harding and Kieran Lavery secured the three points that now means that sixth-placed VCD Athletic - who beat East Grinstead 5-4 - cannot finish above them.

Saturday saw a see-saw game in which Bay twice levelled before Lavery’s 78th-minute winner.

Di Paola said: “They are a really good side and I do not know why they have had the season they have had - on paper they are a good team.

“It was one of our best wins because we did not play very well, so it’s one of those that it is good to get a win in.

“They did not have very many chances, but took them well. From our point of view, it was good to come away with three points because it is a tough place to go and the pitch was pretty poor.

“Credit to the boys they dug in and once it got to 3-2 we contained them a bit.”

With Cray Wanderers securing the league title on Saturday, attentions will now turn to capturing as many points in their remaining two fixtures from the points-to-game ratio and also securing home advantage in the play-offs.

Di Paola continued: “We are looking at Faversham first and we will get what we can out of that. Then we go Guernsey. We have had a great season, the boys have been magnificent and I am really happy.

“We can only get what points we can get. At the end when the whole league has finished we can then see what the situation is.

“There have been a lot of boxes to tick this season. You have to get in the play-offs, finish in the right position, win a semi-final, win a final and then look at the points-to-game thing, so it’s a lot of ticking boxes and it’s a very unusual situation.

“We will have to see when our season ends and see where we are. We might be in a position where we can go up or we might not. It’s a really hard one this year, it’s a weird old scenario.

“It’s been really enjoyable though, I have enjoyed it and the boys have enjoyed it. We have a couple more league games to go out and express ourselves and see where that takes us.”

On Saturday, the visitors led after just seven minutes when Lee Harding floated in a corner and Joe Shelley headed it back across goal for Smith to tap home, but the hosts levelled ten minutes later through Bradley Schafer.

Horsham restored their lead just before the break when a ball in by Tyrell Richardson-Brown found Harding at the back-post and he headed home.

In the second half, Herne Bay again equalised again, this time through Tahjae Anderson, in the 54th minute, but Lavery secured the three points 12 minutes from time.

Horsham: Pelling, Metcalf, Miles, Shelley, Sparks, Brivio (Lovegrove 87), Hayward, O’Toole, Richardson-Brown (Lavery 72), Harding, Smith (Taylor 90). Unused: Hyde, Pearse.