Guernsey FC 0, Horsham 1 IF ANY of the 1,363 fans at Footes Lane had any doubts as to the standard of Ryman League football early yesterday evening, they certainly would not have had by about 9.30pm.
Guernsey FC 0, Horsham 1
IF ANY of the 1,363 fans at Footes Lane had any doubts as to the standard of Ryman League football early yesterday evening, they certainly would not have had by about 9.30pm.
After watching the best league side yet come to the island – the only stronger opposition being Spennymoor Town – go home with all three points, the step up in Guernsey FC’s opposition was clear.
Simon Colbran’s visiting Horsham team were excellent and, what’s more, played their superb football on a pitch that did its best to hinder both sides’ fluent styles with its many rough and sandy patches.
Rather than many of the Combined Counties sides that came to ‘the Lane’ purely to spoil Tony Vance’s men, the Hornets came with footballing intentions firmly in their minds and delivered.
True, on another night and being more clinical in front of goal, the Green Lions could have been the ones celebrating and they proved on an entertaining night that they belonged at this level.
It is a pretty good bet that both sides will be challenging for the play-offs come April, at the very least around mid-table, and if Vance’s men take the chances they create, the wins will start to flow.
But on this occasion, they were punished by Byron Napper’s coolly taken 61st-minute strike and, once Horsham had the advantage, they looked mightily impressive in controlling the game with some great passing football.
Nobody could begrudge them their success.
In truth, a couple of chances aside, GFC did not threaten an equaliser in the late stages and, despite the clear frustration of a number in the Garenne Stand, it is a situation they might have to become more used to in the coming months.
GFC were not poor, not by any stretch, although they did take the first-quarter of the game to grow into it, during which Horsham were much the better side.
It was played at a fairly frenetic pace and GFC were too often back-to-front in one go without reward and their cause was certainly not helped by Ross Allen’s early withdrawal with a dead leg.
That loss was crucial as the game wore on, but then again, there were more than enough attacking options on the pitch, as Vance started with the adventurous approach of Glyn Dyer in midfield.
He was one of two bookings in the first five minutes as referee Paul Kelly set out his stall early, but Matt Loaring’s effort over the bar was the only goalmouth action early on.
Home keeper Chris Tardif had to be alert to keep out Billy Dunn, before one of a couple of great opportunities GFC had on the night fell their way.
Prolific striker Marc McGrath was slid through behind the backline and did everything right with his finish across goal, but found Michael Hunter’s outstretched right foot making a stunning save before Loaring’s rebound was blocked.
The atmosphere and noise began to lift in those final 10 minutes or so before the break as GFC were on top, although at this level of football, you have to get a goal in those spells.
It was a steep learning curve, as Horsham were a far better outfit than Herne Bay were on Saturday and have clearly improved markedly from their 15th place finish last campaign.
But, for all that, everything could have been so different if Loaring had finished one of the most gilt-edged chances he will ever have on 55min., not too long before the winner came at the other end.
An excellent flowing move by the hosts culminated in McGrath’s vision to head expertly back across the area to Loaring, who looked like he could not miss from two or three yards out.
In fairness, he did not do much wrong, hitting the target with power, but Hunter’s clawed save at his near post was nothing short of astonishing and despite the cries from the crowd, it did not cross the line.
Either way, it was costly when a defensive lapse at the Hockey Club end saw the excellent Gabriel Odunaike, a candidate for man-of-the-match, find space to pull across to Napper, who steered into the bottom corner from 15 yards.
Vance tried everything he knew from the bench, sending on Scott Bougourd and then Tom de la Mare, the latter switch adding a degree of patience to the build-up that was at times lacking.
Tom Strawbridge was nearly the hero when he had a free header that hit the side netting, while Nigel Hutton had an effort well blocked in the dying seconds, but that was as close as it got for the Lions.
The vast majority after the goal was played in the GFC half and one doubts whether they will be the only side who find Horsham a tough nut to crack this season.
But seasons are not won or lose in August and it would take a brave man to bet against GFC on the back of this reverse, with a chance to put things right as early as Saturday.
Guernsey FC: Tardif, Isabelle (Bougourd 67), Cochrane, Strawbridge, Dodd, Mackay, Dyer (de la Mare 81), Heaume, Loaring, McGrath, Allen (Hutton 18).
Horsham: Hunter, Hamilton (Simpson 87), J. King, Charman, B. King (Mitchell 71), Morley, Napper, Harris, Odunaike, Dunn, Cade.
Referee: P. Kelly.