Horsham made it back-to-back 2-0 wins with a highly impressive home performance against Hastings United to put another dent in the play-off hopes of their Sussex neighbours.
Gary Charman put the Hornets ahead in the first-half and the dominant hosts had a number of chances to extend their lead before Tony Nwachukwu settled any nerves with a second late on.
Player/manager Charman vindicated his decision to play himself upfront instead of at the back with a fine performance along with Horsham’s other attacking three of Jamie Cade, Ashley Robinson and Tony Nwachukwu, while a strong all-round team display to blunt the visitors’ attacking threat throughout.
It was nearly the perfect start for the hosts when Hastings gave the ball away straight from kick off with a terrible pass that put Cade through, but after rounding the goalkeeper the striker struck the post when he should really have put Horsham ahead with only 25 seconds on the clock.
The blistering start to the match continued when, inside two minutes Nathan Ferguson struck a low drive destined for the bottom corner only for a fine diving save from Horsham stopper Mark Zawadski to keep it out, and at the other end Charman headed a Robinson cross straight at Josh Pelling in the visiting goal.
A lovely little shimmy saw Hornets left winger Robinson beat his man but he slashed his effort wide, and in the opposite box there were big shouts for a penalty when Lewis Hamilton seemed to handle before Ferguson headed a cross straight at Zawadski.
A good ball over the Hastings defence from Ross Morley the saw Tony Nwachukwu use his pace to win a foot race with Pelling - who had a brief loan spell at Horsham several seasons ago - and though he lobbed the ‘keeper the ball bounced harmlessly wide.
Just a minute later though Horsham were ahead following a slick piece of play. Nwachukwu released Scott Harris, who had made a rare burst down the right, and he in turn picked out the run of Charman who slotted home at the near post.
It was a well-deserved lead and the hosts could have doubled it right on half-time. Another neat interchange between Cade and Morley saw the ball shipped out to the right, where Nwachukwu delivered a hanging cross which Charman rose well to meet but his powerful header from 12 yards looped over.
Into the second half and the play ebbed and flowed with both sides eager to attack, before Horsham carved out two guilt-edge chances in the space of 11 minutes.
First Ryan Marriott’s long punt from defence put Cade in behind the Hastings’ defence but with only the goalkeeper to beat the Hornets’ top-scorer fired well over on the half volley.
Then with 71 minutes gone a quick free kick from Marriott found Nwachukwu in acres of space on the right. His deep cross was headed back across goal by Charman only for Robinson, completely unmarked six yards out to nod straight at Pelling.
Horsham had a strong penalty shout of their own when Nwachukwu went down in the box under contact from left back Sam Cruttwell, referee Jonathan Creswick appearing to put the whistle to his lips before waving away the loud protests, much to the audible frustration of the home bench.
Any fears that hosts would be made to pay for their missed chances were allayed however when Morley’s accurate cross from the left had three unmarked players queueing up to score, Nwachukwu it was who took charge and his side-footed volley just beat Pelling to creep into the bottom corner to make it 2-0 on 81 minutes.
Charman so nearly grabbed his second and Horsham’s third less than a minute later but his header was kept out by a busy Pelling, Morley on the follow up denied by an excellent block.
Robinson slipped Charman in on the left but Pelling made another excellent save, and in added time at the end of the game substitute Bruno Pacheco flashed a shot only inches wide as Horsham could have won at a canter but settled for the 2-0 victory.
Horsham (4-4-2): Zawadski; Marriott, Hamilton, King, Woodford; Nwachukwu (Pacheco 84), Robinson, Harris, Morley; Charman (Legrange 90), Cade.
Hastings (4-4-2): Pelling; Adams, Cruttwell, Judge, Bachellier; Hassan, Ferguson (O’Connor 74), Ellis, Darby; McCreadie (Woodley 67), Sawyer.