‘Toughest month means there’s no margin for error’ in Horsham’s play-off bid

Horsham's Dylan Merchant. Picture by John Lines
Horsham's Dylan Merchant. Picture by John Lines

Horsham are facing their toughest month of the season in February and go into it with no margin for error, according to manager Dominic Di Paola.

The Bostik League South East Division play-off race remains as tight as ever after the weekend’s results.

The Hornets emerged from a bruising encounter with a narrow 1-0 home win over Ramsgate to remain fourth in the table.

They have narrowed the gap on second-placed Hastings United to just four points, trail Ashford United in third by a point and are three ahead of Whyteleafe in the final play-off place.

Di Paola has been wary of their games in February for a while and has previously said it could make or break their promotion push.

They travel to East Grinstead on Saturday and host Hastings on Tuesday night. The following weekends see a trip to VCD Athletic, a home game against Three Bridges and a clash at Whitstable Town.

Di Paola stressed: “It’s a really tough February. We have Hastings and VCD Athletic in there. It’s probably our toughest month so far.

“Looking at it, game after game is tough. What it will do, though, is come the end of month, we will have a good idea of where we will be in the table.

“It is so, so tight. We have spoken before and looking at Hastings then they were six points ahead, yet it’s just three points now – a couple of results make a big difference. If we do not win a couple, it can all change.

“It’s a real shame that our January hasn’t helped us. If you add a win against Guernsey and something against Phoenix Sports, where we deserved it, you have more margin for error, as it is, we don’t have any margin for error.”

The Hornets begin their tricky month with a trip to East Court to face a 13th-placed Wasps on Saturday.

Di Paola is wary of the threat their hosts possess with a number of experienced players in their ranks.

Add to that, the fact Horsham will be without the banned Lewis Hyde and Charlie Harris and Dylan Merchant both have injuries and could miss the game.

On the problem at centre-back and Merchant’s injury, Di Paola explained: “He has a problem with his back and I am a bit more worried about it than he is as I know how bad backs can be.

“He is stiffening up after any exercise and waking up in the mornings in pain.

“Lewis Hyde is out for three games now as well, so we will have to have a little sort-out this week of what we are going to do. Hopefully, Dylan comes through and we can patch him up.

“On paper East Grinstead are really strong. When you look at their team, they have experienced players in Greg Cundle, George Landais, who we know well, Jerson Dos Santos, who got promoted with Corinthian Casuals, former Hythe captain Ryan Johnson, an excellent goalkeeper in Brannon Daly and Jordan Johnson in centre-midfield, who has been around a lot.”

“They took Bognor to extra-time the other week, so we will have to be on it, we always do.”