How Horsham matched then beat Woking to set up FA Cup trip to Carlisle - full match report and highlights

Not since the start of the Millennium have the Hornets defeated a side at least two divisions above them in the FA Cup, and few of the record crowd assembled inside The Camping World Community Stadium would have given them a chance before kick-off, especially those who witnessed the dismal defeat to Potters Bar Town just a week earlier, writes Mark Wells..

Monday, 18th October 2021, 7:45 am
Manager Dom Di Paola looks relaxed as he watches the action / Picture: Derek Martin Photography

Dom Di Paola’s squad have made a habit of exceeding expectations in this year’s competition but when the news came through that Danny Dudley had contracted Covid and Doug Tuck was absent for family reasons, it looked as if the Hornets’ resolve would finally come to a valiant end. Add to that only one fit striker and Dudley’s equally impressive defensive partner Alex Malins still sidelined, it was clear that it was going to take something quite extraordinary if Horsham were to progress to the first round for only the fourth time in their long history.

And something quite extraordinary it was, too, as Tom Kavanagh’s sublime 87th minute free-kick sent the home crowd into raptures as they began to dream of a trip to Sunderland, Ipswich Town, Bolton Wanderers or perhaps Portsmouth in the next round.

Horsham had to endure plenty of late pressure from the National League high-flyers but make no mistake, this was no ‘backs to the wall, hit them on the break’ performance by the home side who grew in stature as the match developed, might have scored earlier in the game, and fully deserved their moment of glory.

Cards manager Alan Dowson made clear his feelings of the importance of this tie when fielding a near first-choice eleven, packed not only with experience and pedigree but also height, strength, pace and power; players like Rohan Ince, who made more sixty Championship appearances for Brighton & Hove Albion, leading scorer and one-time Notts County forward Tahvon Campbell, former Crawley Town and England C international Joe McNerney, and giant striker Inih Effiong who had a spell playing in the Scottish Premiership for Ross County.

With the Cards quite literally stacked against them, the Hornets had two things in their favour – that incredible sense of camaraderie that had seen them overcome higher-places opponents in each of the previous two rounds, and the knowledge that this was an FA Cup tie, a competition famed throughout the world for it’s surprise results.

Action from Horsham's win over Woking / Picture: Derek Martin Photography

It was, then, more in hope than expectation that the Hornets began the game but they fully matched their loftier opponents for the first twenty minutes or so, even forcing a couple of corners that simply cranked up the atmosphere being generated by two well-behaved and very vocal sets of supporters. There was a sniff of a chance for Lee Harding on eighteen minutes when a long ball forward was directed by Moussa Diarra towards his own ‘keeper, who had to be alert to rush in and clear the ball off Lee Harding’s toes.

A harsh booking for Charlie Harris, for a challenge that looked fair and certainly not cautionable, made referee Richard Holmes the villain of the piece in the eyes of the partizan home crowd but Woking were also showing signs of frustration by the midway point of the half when Tarryn Allarakhia made his feelings known as another overhit crossfield ball went over the head of skipper Josh Casey and out for a throw.

Action from Horsham's win over Woking / Picture: Derek Martin Photography

The game’s first chance of note came on twenty-seven minutes and ought to have seen Horsham take the lead. A superb ball down the line by Jack Brivio picked out Harris and when he found the space to whip in a cross Eddie Dsane, the only team-mate up in support, could only volley his effort over the crossbar from close in. Another good opportunity came and went for the Hornets, eight minutes later, when a nice touch by Harding set Harris free in space but visiting ‘keeper Craig Ross was alert to the midfielder’s attempts in picking out Dsane’s blind side run and came out of his goal in the nick of time.

Suddenly the chances were opening up and, this time, it was Woking’s turn to go on the offensive when Allarakhia slipped Effiong through but Sam Howes, who was a member of the Cards’ squad just a couple of seasons ago, stood up strong to beat away the striker’s shot. A strike by Campbell produced a rather more comfortable save from the ‘keeper, shortly after, then the home crowd were on their feet as Horsham looked to catch the visitors on the counter but Harding had strayed offside when looking to race clear on to Dsane’s pass.

McNerney was left shaking his head after putting the ball wide of the target when Howes was beaten by the flight of an Allarakhia corner, five minutes before half-time, and there was a brief scare for the hosts when Brivio stayed down for several minutes after the incident before being able to continue.

H/T Horsham 0 Woking 0

What's up, ref? The official takes centre stage / Picture: Derek Martin Photography

A goalless first half was arguably as good as most Horsham diehards could have hoped for at the start but their optimism at pulling off a shock result almost came undone just three minutes after the restart when Allarakhia bust through into the area, taking the ball on his chest, only to roll his attempt wide of Howes’ left-hand post. It was a huge let off for the hosts and one the visitors would come to regret.

McNerney was also profligate, five minutes later, when his towering far post leap only resulted in him heading Casey’s corner back across goal and beyond the opposite upright. A double substitution saw Allarakhia and Solomon Nwaboukei make way for Kane Thompson-Sommers and Max Krezschmar, just before the hour mark, but before either substitute could make his mark on proceedings, Horsham went close to going in front. A Harris corner, from the right, was met by Tom Day whose glancing header rippled the side-netting and had many in the stand on their feet acclaiming a goal.

But Krezschmar looked as if he had the key to unlock the Hornets defence, at the heart of most of Woking’s better attempts in the final quarter of the match. Kyran Lofthouse really should have tested Howes at least, after being beautifully picked out by the substitute’s angled cross, but volleyed wide from the corner of the six-yard box and then, from a free-kick, Krezschmar fired the ball straight into Howe’s midriff.

The former Wycombe Wanderers man, determined to make the most of his thirty-minute cameo, then sent in a dangerous curling ball that arced around Day invitingly for Campbell and Effiong who were both beaten to the chase – just – by Howes.

Despite fighting a lone furrow up front throughout the match, Dsane was proving a bit of a menace for the Cards defence and both Lofthouse and Casey were booked in the space of a minute for bringing down the lively forward who earned his rest when making way for Alex Laing with seven minutes to go.

As thoughts began to wander towards a Tuesday night replay, Howes was cautioned for taking too long over a goal-kick before McNerney followed him into the book for bringing down Harding just outside the Woking area. As it would turn out, the defender’s indiscretion would prove more costly than Horsham’s number thirteen. For up stepped Kavanagh to curl in a stunning free-kick, beyond the diving Ross, to provoke scenes of pandemonium from three sides of the ground.

Laing was cautioned for time-wasting in the tense few minutes that followed and Horsham hearts were in their mouths when Effiong climbed highest to meet Tom Champion’s floated ball into the box, only to head wide. With every clearance, interception or throw-in now cheered with almost gladiatorial fervour by the home fans, there was a groan when five minutes of stoppage time was indicated. But Woking failed to make the most of the additional minutes when, first, Lofthouse nodded Krezschmar’s corner off target after Effiong’s effort had been deflected over the bar, and then when Effiong took Krezschmar’s clipped ball down superbly on his chest and swivelled to shoot straight at Howes.

Delirious scenes followed the full-time whistle as Horsham’s players embraced before charging off to celebrate with their fans. For Di Paola, thoughts immediately turned towards Tuesday night’s match with Cheshunt and the vital battle for league points.

Match report by Mark Wells