Will Seager, Dajon Golding and Callum Kealy all started meaning Pat Webber, Dean Cox and Saturday’s two-goal hero Luke Robinson all missed out, with Reds on course to hit three figures in terms of both points and (league) goals.
A lively affair got underway after only three minutes, thanks to Golding dispossessing former Woodside favourite Harvey Sparks and playing the ball across to Reece Myles-Meekums. Meeky forced a fine low save out of Horsham goalkeeper Sam Howes and Sparks recovered sufficiently to complete the clearance.
The action continued at great speed when Marvin Armstong picked up that clearance in the centre circle, only to lose it to Eddie Dsane who immediately set last minute starter Lucas Rodrigues racing clear after he’d got the better of Seager. Breaking into the box, the one-time Worthing trialist set up Dsane for an effort that Harrison Male did well to hold onto.
Golding then had a golden opportunity to put the recently-crowned champions in front but, inexplicably, missed a matter of millimetres out following good hold-up play and a byline turn and chipped cross to the back post, by the fit-again Kealy.
Fortunately however, he made no mistake when beating the offside trap moments later, latching onto Male’s huge goal-kick and rounding Howes before slotting home from a tight angle, on the corner of the six yard box.
Worthing’s number nine then almost doubled his and his team’s tally midway through the opening period.
Tom Day’s pass back to his ‘keeper was hurriedly helped on by Howes to Tom Kavanagh, who was promptly caught napping by Dajon as he proceeded to drift by the Hornet’s netminder and come close to teeing up Ollie Pearce. An alert Chris Sessegnon was well-placed to get there first and prevent Ollie effectively completing a move he’d started, when his ball up the right-hand touchline to Kealy had initially been interrupted by Day gliding over to, briefly, hold-up the attack.
Skipper Racine received a yellow card for illegally halting the right wing run of Lee Harding, shortly before Male went airborne in producing a tremendous one-handed tip over the top to deny the aforementioned forward, after Sparks had whipped in a delivery via a short corner routine for him to head goalwards.
Harding was at the heart of Horsham’s most threatening moves and produced a terrific first touch to control Kavanagh’s long pass out to him, prior to cutting inside Myles-Meekums and so nearly seeing his centre glanced home by the dome of Dsane.
Reds responded through the medium of Meeky, with the winger spotted in space on the left by Starkey and duly laying the ball back for Golding to bury in the side netting, marginally the wrong side though.
The visitor’s task suddenly became much more difficult when Racine was penalised for preventing the rapid Rodrigues racing away with Harding’s headed flick-on. Referee Alex Bradley left with no choice other than to issue a second yellow followed by the inevitable red.
Buoyed by this newly acquired advantage, the home side almost made it pay immediate dividends. A forward burst by Captain Jack (Brivio) resulted in him squeezing between Armstrong and Pearce and driving narrowly wide of a scrambling Male’s front stick.
Now, how much Harding meant by what happened next may be open to some debate.
Taking down a long ball from the boot of eventual Man of the Match Charlie Harris,the host’s number nine wrestled past Seager and hovered clear of Myles-Meekums; curling a cross-cum-shot into the far top corner of the net to level the score on the stroke of half-time.
Naturally missing the experienced Racine, Harris led the charge in the very early stages of the second forty-five too, as he outmuscled Pearce to send Harding scurrying to the byline from where his low cut-back was deflected onto his own near upright and behind, by Seager.
Chances were becoming increasingly rare for the visitors, with one blasted over the target by Pearce after he’d engineered space in the box, despite the close attentions of Sparks, once Armstrong had nicked possession off Brivio.
Roles then reversed somewhat, thanks to Brivio leaving Armstrong on the floor to find Tom Richards with a precise (long) punt that brilliantly dissected the defensive duo of substitute Joe Rye and his colleague Seager. While all looked quite on the Western front, it was a little too quiet for Rodrigues who pounced on indecisiveness by (James) Beresford to beat both he and a cruelly exposed Male, to prod past the pair of them and put the Velocity Trophy winners in front.
Day was left wondering how he failed to put clear daylight between the two teams when he headed Harris’s right-sided free-kick the wrong side of the far post, followed soon after by a far more glaring miss, when he nodded Richards’ delivery from the opposite flank wide of the target from a great position in the penalty area.
Male ultimately having the final say by going full-length to divert Richards’ own bending belter round the upright.
A Rodrigues rasper evaded the top of the target by the narrowest of margins before a buzzing Hornets sealed three thoroughly-deserved points, thanks to Sparks going long, on the left, one last time, to provide Richards with room to roam, at pace, towards the byline before backheeling to Dsane. He located Harris to his right who duly unleashed a cracking effort from just outside the ‘d’ to leave Male rooted firmly to the spot.
Even a late break incorporating a mazy dribble that covered most of the pitch by Pearce produced no more than a routine stop for Howes and, in this part of Sussex at least, it finished 3-1 to the home side, again.