LEE GARNHAM struck two minutes from the end of extra-time to take Steyning Town Football Club past Horsham and into the FA Vase second round on Saturday.
The visitors, relegated from the Ryman League last season, were strong favourites for the game but Hornets manager Dom Di Paola summed the game up with the comment “they worked hard and took their chance and we didn’t”.
That was a fair assessment of the two hours of football watched by a crowd of almost 300 at The Shooting Field on Saturday afternoon.
Steyning, who pick up £900 prize money for the win, will now travel to Southern Counties East League Ashford United in the next round on November 21. The sides met in the first qualifying round of the competition two years ago, when Ashford ran out 2-0 victors.
Both teams were greeted by a heavy pitch after a couple of days of persistent rain on Saturday but the first half saw Horsham utterly dominate as Alan Skipper’s men opted to, as he rightly said, “park the bus” and rely on quick breaks.
That tactic became more difficult to enact with the early withdrawal of Lewis Levoi through injury in the 19th minute.
Despite all the possession, Horsham failed to create any real chances, resorting to long-range efforts that never troubled home keeper Ben Rose.
It was not until the 29th minute that the visitors hit the target when Jordan Clark’s cross found Charlie Farmer but the latter’s flick was straight at the grateful Rose.
Hornets did have the ball in the back of the Steyning net after 40 minutes as Joe Shelley nodded across goal for Terry Dodd to head home but the striker was adjudged to have pushed man-of-the-match Danny Gainsford in the process.
The second half saw the Barrowmen pose more of an attacking threat and they should have taken the lead in the 49th minute. A hopeful long ball should have been gathered by Horsham goalkeeper Gareth Williams but he let it trickle through his legs into Rob Clark’s path but the forward managed to put his effort wide under pressure from Alex Duncan from 18 yards.
The visitors’ best chance came via all their substitutes as Arron Hopkinson’s cross was missed by Nathan Crabb and Evan Archibald, with the latter opting for a stooping header when presented with a simple tap in on 78 minutes.
Extra-time came but little changed regarding the game itself, with the only notable chance in the first period being a Farmer long shot that sailed over the bar.
Hornets continued to push for a winner but Gainsford stood tall and put his body on the line to block a Crabb effort, then a Hopkinson header.
The winner came two minutes from time after Duncan headed a corner clear at the near post but Jordan Peskett was not closed down and his left-footed inswinging cross was flicked inside the far post by Garnham to wild celebrations both on and off the pitch.
Home boss Skipper said: “They’re a decent side and we knew that, so we had a game-plan which the boys all stuck to.
“We asked them to do a job and they all did, proving that we also have a good side.
“The support today was brilliant and just reward for the board and all their hard work. It would be nice if we could play like that in the league as well.”
Disappointed Horsham manager Di Paola said: “The pitch was a bit of a leveller but Steyning deserved the win.
“Some of our boys need to have a look at themselves as they just didn’t play well enough to win the game, if truth be told.”
STEYNING: Rose; S.Skipper, Hare, Elms, Finch, Gainsford, Knowles, Dodd, Levoi, Garnham, Clark. Subs: Peskett (Levoi 17), Hartley (Skipper 74), Hunt (Knowles 97), McMahon, Asseffi.
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