Horsham's FA Cup replay win had Di Paola 'pulling his hair out'

Horsham manager Dominic Di Paola. Picture by Derek Martin Photography
Horsham manager Dominic Di Paola. Picture by Derek Martin Photography

Dominic Di Paola revealed he was ‘pulling his hair out at times’ during Horsham’s heart-stopping 3-2 FA Cup first qualifying round replay win over Metropolitan Police on Tuesday night.

Bilal Sayoud fired a marvellous swerving 20-yard strike past George Bentley to make it 1-0 Met on nine minutes.

Harvey Sparks equalised three minutes before half-time. The defender's cross-cum-shot ended up flying into the top corner to level.

Chris Smith coolly slotted past Met keeper Charlie Burns to make it 2-1 on 48 minutes before the game ended in high drama.

The Old Bill levelled with ten minutes to go as Luke Robinson expertly curled the ball into the top corner. But, at the death, Smith, on the goal line, chested the ball home to spark pandemonium at The Camping World Community Stadium and set up a second qualifying round tie at home to National League South side Dartford on Saturday, September 21.

Di Paola said: “We made hard work of it but I thought we played some lovely football and created great chances. If we score some of those, the game’s pretty comfortable.

“When we missed those chance I said it was going to come back and haunt us and it did, and it always does. If you don’t take your chances, you have a massive chance of throwing things away.

“It was stressful, not straightforward, and I was pulling my hair out at times. It was a relief to get the win and get through to the next round.”

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Smith's double saw the forward bag his seventh goal in as many games in all competitions for the Hornets in 2019/20.

The former South Park and Burgess Hill Town man has enjoyed an electric start to the season and Di Paola was full of praise for his contribution against the Met.

The Hornets manager added: "I think everything about his game was brilliant. I thought he was absolutely outstanding and you have to say fair play to him.

"There's more to come from him but if you get the ball in the box you always have a chance with Smudge, because he's got that natural finisher's mindset. You can't coach that.

"We've got lots of goal threat, and I'd never highlight someone, but I think he played really well".

The Hornets played in front of a midweek crowd of 445 against Met. The attendance was made doubly impressive due to the game kicking off at the the same time as England's televised World Cup qualifier with Kosovo.

Di Paola hailed the replay as the 'the best atmosphere at the new ground by a mile' and called on the club 'to keep growing' their burgeoning support.

He added: "I thought that was the best atmosphere we've had at the new ground by a mile. It was lively and felt like a proper football match in a proper ground, which is great.

"Last night the kids were there, cheering and shouting, and we've just got to keep growing that side of it.

"We need to make our home ground really feel like home, on and off the pitch, so it feels like Horsham Football Club and not just a facility"