Horsham Semi-Final Report

Steyning Town’s historic Sussex Senior cup tie ended in disappointment with a 4-1 defeat to Horsham FC at Lancing FC last night in a game which was marred by a controversial red card for Steyning in the first half.

Trailing 2-1 at half-time time and down to 10 men, The Barrowmen faced an uphill battle in the second half and Horsham in the end ran out comfortable 4-1 winners. However, all the talk after the game, especially amongst the Steyning supporters, what was around the highly controversial sending of the influential centre back, rock Nathan Cooper on the half-hour mark with the scores level at 1-1.

Town had taken the lead early on through a well taken go by Harry Shooman goal racing onto a pass through the middle, holding of a defender, and finishing low in to the net with his right foot . After that Steyning had two or three other good chances to add to it to set up a night of potential cup upset.

Harry’s Goal

However, it wasn’t one way traffic in those early exchanges, at the other end, Horsham had missed a very good chance in the first minute and had equalised setting up what looks like to be a cracking match for the rest of the evening. Ajakaiye in particular was asking Steyning’s back four lots of questions with his pacy direct approach.

However, referee Harris in the centre circle had different ideas with some pedantic decisions earlier on which resulted in two yellow cards and ultimately the sending off the unfortunate Cooper who had started the game superbly, already in a great tussle with the strong Fenelon. The most controversial of the two yellow cards came in the 15th minute, when Cooper put the ball down to take a freekick deep in his own half, and then decided at the last minute to hand the freekick over to keeper Lucas, and Cooper jogged on up the pitch. Something you see time and time again in football matches. However, ref Harris deemed this to be a bookable offence which was extraordinary given the delay was a matter of seconds and it was so early in the game and came with no warning.

With Cooper now on an unnecessary yellow , and having his hands full with such lively forwards as those Horsham have, there was a sense of trepidation amongst the Town faithful that that decision could come back to bite us. And so it proved on the half-hour mark with the second yellow. The second yellow itself again was questionable as to whether it merited a yellow in isolation. Cooper committed what would be considered a relatively routine found in the centre circle. Given the circumstances, most in the ground considered a final warning for Cooper would suffice at that point, and there was there was no clamour from anyone for him to be sent off. However, the ref delightedly brandished the second yellow, effectively killing the game for all 854 in the ground who had come to see an exciting tussle.

Alot of noise around this decision may sound like sour grapes and Steyning supporters being bitter. However, Senior cup semi finals don’t come around too often, we are always defensive of officials and rarely criticise the decisions they make. However, it’s very hard to support last night’s decisions and accept it . Overall whether it’s driven by the ref, the rules, or the pressure there is confusion now every single level of football and every team has its turn to be very frustrated. Last night was our turn. Whatever the rules and whatever is happening it’s clearly very wrong. There is no way, if you take a step back and look objectively, with any level of common sense and objectivity, that Nathan Cooper committed crimes in those first half an hour that should result in him taking no further part in the match.

Horsham added a second goal soon after and Steyning were hanging on for half-time where they went in 2-1 down. Time for a reorganisation as Shooman dropped to centre back and Town reverted to 4 at the back.

The second half really became an exercise in Horsham keeping possession and Steyning camping deep in their own half trying to limit the damage. In fact the damage had been done in the first half! Horsham added two more goals during the second half to give the scoreline fair reflection of the dominance they had in that second period. Lucas made one cracking save and the Barrowmen did superbly to limit the number of clear cut chances, as the ones they did create were finished ruthlessly. However, Steyning did continue to try to attack on the counter in the second half where possible. Their one big chance of the second half came early on when Carey in the Horsham goal pulled off a stunning point, blank save from the hard-working Chalaye when he seemed destined to score.

Horsham are certainly a fine team and their touch, control and movement was a level above anything Steyning come across normally within their division. However, based on the pattern of play in the first 30 minutes when it was 11 V 11 the optimistic ones amongst us certainly felt Steyning were here to give Horsham a good stern test, however, Harris had other ideas.

We wish Horsham, all the best in the final, they have a terrific fan base, a good team and they deserve every success.

As for us an evening of great pride, great frustration, and a large sense of what could’ve been.

We look ahead to a Peter Bentley, semi-final and exciting run-in in the league and that all starts with Horsham YMCA at home on Saturday.

Steyning : Szendela-Goetzke Da Costa Cooper Fuller Clark Shooman Edwards Barnes Francis Meehan Chalaye

Subs used: Goldson Rance Oladokun Remfry Rondel

Att 854

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