What was perhaps the only clear cut chance of the night settled a tight affair as Horsham were edged out by Merstham last night (Tuesday March 18).
The visitors’ Fabio Saraiva pounced midway through the second half to hand in-form Merstham all three points at Gorings Mead.
Horsham had won three consecutive matches going into the game, and four from their last five, but Merstham are also charging up the league table and did not allow the Hornets to play their usual passing game.
With Gary Charman and Jamie Cade both unavailable for selection, Ryan Woodford formed an unusual but effective centre back partnership with Jahmahl King.
Ashley Robinson saw the game’s first chance when he was played in on goal by Mark Zawadski’s long kick, but Merstham keeper Brannon Daly got just enough on the winger’s attempted chip to stop it flying over his head.
The two sides cancelled each other out for much of the first half, though the visitors ended on top, Liam Harwood unable to steer Tommy Hutchings’ dangerous free kick towards goal.
Horsham’s back four kept Merstham at bay for much of the 90 minutes, but they were breached on 67 minutes.
Billy-Joe King’s attempted clearance in his own penalty area fell to Saraiva, whose headed effort was cleared off the line by Woodford. Taurean Roberts lashed the ball back towards goal and Saraiva was on hand to divert the shot high into the net past Zawadski from close range.
The Hornets sent on Tony Nwachukwu and then Akwasi Fobi-Edusei, switching to a 4-4-2 formation that almost paid dividends immediately when Byron Napper found an opening, though the midfielder shot over from a tight angle.
Hutchings drove a free kick towards goal that was too hot to handle for Zawadski, the Horsham keeper doing well to tip over the crossbar, and Merstham substitute Omar Fulkes turned and fired just off target from distance.
The visitors set up defensively in the final few minutes in expectation of a Horsham siege that never really arrived.
Horsham’s last chance for an equaliser came when a corner in added time eventually fell to Woodford, but his powerful effort was deflected off target.
Horsham: Zawadski, Hamilton, B. King, Harris (Fobi-Edusei 79), J. King, Woodford, Napper, Morley, Kaffo (Nwachukwu 71), Pacheco, Robinson.