Horsham held by hard-working Hassocks in opening game

Horsham captain Joe Shelley in action for East Preston at the start of last year
Horsham captain Joe Shelley in action for East Preston at the start of last year

Horsham were held to a draw by a battling defensive display from Hassocks at The Beacon in today’s season opener in the Southern Combination League.

The Premier Division clash ended 1-1 as Joe Shelley’s penalty on the half-hour mark cancelled out Nathan Miles’ fourth-minute wonder goal.

The home side will be delighted with their point against hotly-tipped Horsham as they put in a hard-working defensive shift.

The Hornets controlled long periods of the game with Hassocks happy to soak up the pressure, but they created few clear-cut chance for all their possession.

A depleted Hassocks took the lead early on as a free-kick was played out from their own half, headed down to Miles, who turned on the right of the box and let fly with an unstoppable effort across goal into the far corner.

With their lead, the Robins sat back allowing Horsham to play the ball out from the back and around the midfield, although they almost equalised immediately as Scott Murfin went through one on one, but poked just wide of the post.

A couple of handball shouts were waved away by referee Barry Cox - the second of which struck a raised arm in a wall after a free-kick, from foul that Horsham boss Dominic Di Paola said was definitely in the box, not outside it.

Kieron Pamment forced a good save from debutant goalkeeper Reece Wickwar as he was down well to palm away an angled effort on 14 minutes.

The Horsham front three of Murfin, Darren Boswell and Pamment caused constant problems for the three Hassock centre-backs, but couldn’t find any magic in the final third.

A outstretched and clumsy Bradley Tighe tackled gifted Horsham a penalty on 30 minutes which Shelley dispatched into the bottom right.

Soon after, as Shelley drove forwards and found Boswell, his cross was headed away by Ashley Marsh with Murfin looking to head home.

At the other end on a rare Hassock foray forwards, Miles’ effort was blocked after a decent cross from Jamie Hillwood.

Just before half-time, Alex Duncan’s low cross was flicked back for the arriving Shelley, but Nick Pitcher put in a great block on the edge of the box.

The second half was a slow starter and the first chance went to Hassocks as Miles sprung the offside trap and bore down on goal but fired straight at Gareth Willliams.

On 60 minutes, a Boswell header back from a Pamment cross fell to Kev Keehan on the edge of the box, but Wickwar held his volleyed effort.

Mark Knee’s deep cross from the left had Wickwar beat and he watched thankfully as ball crashed back off the corner of the post and bar.

Murfin and Boswell then both rolled balls across the area and goal with no-one there to get on the end of the passes.

Substitute Brad Lewis fired high and wide, before fellow replacement Adam Hunt’s cross was missed by a defender and as he swung to clear it struck his arm

Wickwar again saved after a close-rang scramble between Samir Hadi and Shelley and the former had a deflected effort stopped as the visitors ran out of ideas in the closing stages.

Hassocks: Wickwar, Jacques, Marsh, Barnes, Hillwood, Hawkins (Millis 82), Pitcher, Stokes, Miles. Unused subs: Booth, Wilkins, Williams.

Horsham: Williams, Duncan (Hunt 78), Jones, Farmer, Knee, Keehan (Lewis 70), Shelley, Clarke, Pamment (Hadi 77), Murfin, Boswell. Unused subs: O’Hagan, Storrie.

Pictures, report and reaction from both managers in Thursday’s West Sussex County Times and Mid Sussex Times