Horsham’s first meaningful game in the third tier of English Hockey saw their first foray into the Hockey Association Cup.
With nine goals, a penalty at either end and a death or glory finish that nearly saved the day, it was a proper cup tie away to Oxford Hawks.
It was the hosts that edged a thrilling game 5-4, as they held out late Horsham pressure to advance.
Horsham arrived with a make-shift team, new skipper Andrew Isaacs unable to call upon his full squad due to injury, with three players called up from the second team.
The match also saw the competitive debut of summer signings Ellis Woolley and Sam Gill.
Woolley immediately made an impact, scoring twice from short corners within seven minutes. Horsham have lacked a genuinely threatening drag-flicker and will hope Woolley can fill that slot.
Gill impressed with calm play at the back and once he has worked on his distribution, he will be an important part of the squad.
Horsham continued to threaten, however two soft goals from quick Hawks’ moves before the break showed the defence that, in this elevated company, they cannot afford to lose concentration.
In the second half, Horsham came under pressure and seemed to lose their way. Hawks scored twice before a ragged tackle gifted the hosts a penalty stroke that Isaacs just failed to save.
Losing 5-2, Horsham manager Al Campbell decided attack was the only option and substituted a defender for a fourth forward. It signalled a great comeback as Hawks struggled to withstand the pressure.
Coach Dom Male scored with a shot that deflected past the keeper, then a penalty stroke after a desperate Hawks tackled.
At the death it was all Horsham, but Hawks knew just enough to shut them out.
The teams meet twice more this season, in the league, and Horsham will take confidence from this game.
Team manager Campbell felt they learned a lot from the game and was not too let down by exiting the competition.
He said: “It’s a cliché but in our first season at this level we probably didn’t need a cup run. This was more a final pre-season work out and we proved we could score goals and fight back.”
The league start on Saturday, Horsham entertaining Bromley & Beckenham at Broadbridge Heath.
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