A first-half birthday hat-trick cameo performance by ex-coach Dom Male, before leaving at half-time to resume childcare duties, helped the Horsham win a valuable point at Christ’s Hospital on Saturday.
However, the fact the home team could only draw after being 3-1 in front demonstrates just how badly Horsham miss Male and the other senior players who retired last season.
A point leaves them bottom of South Premier Division 1, one behind second-bottom Henley and seven back from Milton Keynes.
The home side started with a lot of confidence and were comfortably on top, playing controlled hockey.
However, this Winchester side is always dangerous on the break having netted eight times in their previous two matches. And against the run of play the visitors scored.
Enter Male who notched three goals in rapid succession.
The first and third were deflections on the back-post from penetrating passes by Sean Pearcy and Sam Gill, the classic hockey goal that has eluded Horsham all season.
The middle goal was delightful – finding himself inside the D with his back to the goal, Male somehow wriggled and turned producing an unstoppable shot from a seemingly impossible angle.
It was not all one-way traffic and Winchester notched again just before half-time. The teams turned around at 3-2 and the visitors stormed out of the traps forcing over-loads on the home defence.
Two more goals ensued and Horsham were suddenly 4-3 down. Manager Al Campbell reorganised his defence and Horsham resumed the offensive.
Barney Knights-Johnson flattened the away keeper with a shot that should have and could have gone in but somehow didn’t, before levelling the scores with a signature reverse stick strike.
At the death Knights-Johnson put Joey Humphries through one-on-one with the keeper. With the goal at his mercy Humphries failed to convert.
“It could so easily have been three points but at this stage we’ll settle for the one,” a philosophical Campbell said.
“We’re getting there, we just need the breaks.”
This week Horsham travel to London Wayfarers.