Horsham were quite literally blinded by the lights as they suffered a second-half collapse in an 8-1 defeat away to South Premier Division 2 leaders Guildford.
If ever there was a game of two halves this was it. But the scoreline was as much to do with a freak of nature as it was the way Horsham played the game.
Low sun after the break led to the Horsham players unable to see properly and team manager Al Campbell saying they were ‘caught like rabbits in headlights’.
He mused: “Golfers will tell you that local knowledge is worth up to four shots a round.
“On the Guildford pitch at Broadwater School last Saturday it was worth six goals.”
Horsham totally bossed this game for the first 25 minutes, playing exhibition hockey, passing the ball well, moving into spaces and having 70 per cent possession.
Guildford, top of the division, are a class, well-drilled act. They train twice a week, have set their sights firmly on promotion and played this match with a full complement of 16 players to Horsham’s 13.
Yet Horsham created all the early the chances, had all the shots and won the short corners throughout the first period.
But the league leaders stood firm. It became apparent that the team to blink first and make a mistake was going to suffer.
Horsham blinked first when, 25 minutes in, a misguided pass was intercepted. You’d don’t get to the top without being clinical and the Guildford forward drove towards the goal and beat Nick Evans who, up until then, had hardly touched the ball. Five minutes later, a crash hit-and-hope Guildford ball into the Horsham D was deflected at the last minute for a 2-0 lead to the hosts at half-time.
Horsham rightly felt they were still in this game until, resuming position, they realised that on this day, at this time, the sun was 15 degrees above the horizon and shining brilliantly straight down the pitch right into the eyes of Evans and the defence.
“It was like a bad joke,” Campbell said after the game.
“We don’t want to make lame excuses, but the team were literally caught like rabbits in the headlights and even the umpires said they had trouble seeing the play.
“Where was the British winter when we needed it?”
From being in contention, Horsham were suddenly whipping boys.
Guildford made the most of their fresh legs on the bench and came out of the sun at full tilt scoring two short corners and four flamboyant field goals – none of which Evans and his defence really saw coming.
Late on, as the sun sank lower, Horsham regained a grip on the game, resumed playing classy hockey, and Sean Percy scored his eighth goal of the season to stay second in the overall rankings.
This weekend Horsham entertain Woking at Christ’s Hospital.