Horsham manager Dominic Di Paola revealed the decision to pick Josh James instead of the ever-present George Bentley for Saturday’s FA Cup tie with Dartford was ‘out of loyalty’ to the keeper.
James made his first competitive start for the Hornets since his return from Burgess Hill Town in the summer after missing the opening games because of personal reasons.
In his absence, youngster Bentley had begun cementing his place as Horsham’s number one after a series of top draw performances.
But Di Paola admitted that James’ attitude, in particular taking young Bentley under his wing, meant the keeper ‘deserved to play’.
He said: “He’s played in games like that before, but it was also out of loyalty to the lad really.
“He came in as a first choice keeper. He’s been with us for three-and-a-half months since pre-season and he’s been first class with George (Bentley).
“Most experienced, mid-20s goalkeepers would just turn their nose up at an 18-year-old taking their place but Josh’s attitude has been spot on.
“He went to Brightlingsea last weekend and worked with George.
He’s been at all the games working with George.
“Josh’s not missed sessions, he’s not missed training, he’s worked really hard.. I think it’s right to reward that.
“I think Josh deserved to play and that’s all it is. After three-and-a-half months Josh’s attitude has been good. He deserved to play.”
Despite dropping Bentley on Saturday, Di Paola was full of praise for the young goalkeeper.
He added: “George is a very young keeper and every now again I don’t think it hurts to take someone out the firing line.
“As a young player it’s not easy to keep up performances at the levels he has done. He has been brilliant for us.”