Horsham’s FA Cup journey came to an end for another season at the Third Qualifying Round stage with a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Kent side Chatham Town at Gorings Mead.
In front of a season’s biggest crowd of 446, a closely fought game was decided by a solitary goal, Alfie May profiting from Billy Joe King’s defensive error early in the second half with an excellent finish.
The Hornets had good chances to level, midfielder Byron Napper blazing over the best, though it was largely an underwhelming display which allowed the Ryman North visitors to progress into the next round with a £7,500 payout.
In typical FA Cup fashion it was a frantic opening which saw Chatham defender Corey Holder nod a second minute corner wide when unmarked.
The hosts’ first good move came not long after and resulted in Ross Morley firing into the side netting from outside the area, and a minute later Tony Nwachukwu left his defender for dead down the right and pulled back to Byron Napper, who couldn’t test the visiting keeper when crowded out by defenders.
The end to end pattern continued when, from a Horsham attack the visitors broke and Alfie May cut in from the left wing and fired a shot across goal which needed a diving Hornets goalkeeper Michael Hunter to turn it round the post. The corner, played short was dinked into the box and skimmed off a Chatham head and only just wide of goal.
With a big prize up for grabs the lightning pace of the match showed no sign of slowing and a hopeful clearance from the Chatham defence saw the ball land at the feet of Alfie May, unmarked in the Horsham area. An extra touch allowed defender Tom Graves to recover and make a good challenge, but his clearance was poor and the ball back in the box was only prevented from reaching the Town winger, primed to score, by a crucial sliding intervention from Jahmahl King.
The hosts only showed flashes of good football in the first half, though five minutes before the break left back Billy Joe King beat two men and his cross was only headed clear to Morley, but from just outside the area he got his volley all wrong.
The first opening after the restart came to the hosts. Hornets central striker Gabby Odunaike did brilliantly to bring a high ball down and feed Billy Dunn, who cut in from the left and found the defence completely open in front of him only to send the ball crashing high over the bar instead of into the back of the net.
And Chatham then went ahead on 54 minutes with the help of a bad defensive mistake. Horsham left back Billy Joe King missed a routine clearance and it let Alfie May in behind the defence. The tricky winger still had plenty to do but from a tight angle inside the box he expertly fired across Hunter and into the far corner.
Hunter made a good save as Alfie May tried his luck again from a similarly tight angle on the right.
With 20 minutes remaining Horsham spurned a glorious chance to equalise. Scott Harris was picked out in space after a rare foray forward and his great cross found Napper, completely free near the penalty spot but somehow he volleyed over when it looked easier to score.
Just a couple of minutes later substitute Jamie Cade headed against the crossbar after Jahmahl King had kept alive a deep corner as Horsham cranked up the pressure.
Nwachukwu then flicked a header agonisingly wide from Billy Joe King’s cross. Horsham appeared to be getting closer and closer.
But despite the introduction of attacking players Jamie Cade, Ryan Marriott and Kery Kedze, that proved Horsham’s final attempt on goal and with a minute of the 90 left to play Alfie May missed the chance to seal it after a mistake from the otherwise excellent Jahmahl King.
The disappointing defeat means Horsham not only miss out on £7,500 in prize funds but also the potential of being plucked to play a Conference Premier side in Monday’s FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round draw.
Horsham (4-3-3): Hunter; Graves (Marriott 80), B King, Charman, J King; Harris, Napper, Morley (Cade 65); Dunn, Nwachukwu, Odunaike (Kedze 84).