Saturday 29th August saw the town of Shoreham by Sea making the most of its assets. A French Market was in full swing on East Street. ‘River Fest’ was taking place, as you’d expect, on the waterfront. Cafés and Restaurants were crowded, some of them with tables spilling out onto the bustling streets, and the plethora of independent stores seemed to be doing good business. The sun shone, the aroma of good food filled the air, and all looked well with the world. The casual visitor may not have noticed that anything was out of the ordinary unless they picked up on the two streams of pedestrian traffic heading down the High Street, one moving towards the Town centre, the other away from it. The lines of people seemed never ending. Couples, families, some with children on bicycles, some with dogs on leads, but little of the vibrant chatter you’d expect on a Bank Holiday Weekend. The tragedy of the Air Show the previous weekend hung over the town like a shroud, and people from the community headed to and from the old Tollbridge to lay flowers and remember those lost.
Middle Road, home of Shoreham FC, was also remarkably quiet despite the FA Cup Preliminary Round tie which was about to take place between the home side and Horley Town FC. The Musselmen (there aren’t yet any Musselwomen, although with an Under 11’s team the club do have some Musselgirls) normally attracted crowds of around seventy, but today there were more than double that number. The FA Cup was undoubtedly part of the attraction, but it also seemed that many normally neutral Non League supporters were attending in a show of solidarity with the local community. Many, many more will show that support again next weekend, as a thousand are expected at the Lyons Way home of nearby Worthing United on Sunday, when an FA Vase match against nearby East Preston also becomes a memorial to the two home players who tragically lost their lives in the dreadful events of 22nd.
As the two teams walked out onto the pitch the matchday announcer brought some brevity to the occasion as he was let down repeatedly by his equipment, giving him the air of a footballing Norman Collier. In relation to some of the home players he was also let down by his pronunciation, and the global society in which we live had once again proved the downfall of a man with a mic. The crowd responded with a mixture of laughter and sympathy; mainly the latter. “I can’t pronounce his name either,” said a home supporter. “Yeah,” said his friend, “It’s difficult isn’t it? B-E-L-L; I’ve no idea how you’d say that!” Still, Obedigh Kangausaru- the actual cause of the difficulties – didn’t seem to mind too much.
If there was any concern that the emotional nature of the day may impact on the football, it was soon dispelled. In the first minute a sweeping ball from the left found the Shoreham number seven, Terrel Miller, haring inside from his usual right wing position to fire at the Horley goal, forcing a good save from George Hyde. The ball was then sent immediately to the other end, and Ashley Nadesan unleashed a shot which Nick Taylor couldn’t hold, but managed to smother at his second attempt. If his shooting had been on a par with his positioning and approach play Nadesan would have left Middle Road with a hat trick to his name.
For much of the first half the game followed a set pattern. Shoreham passed and probed, using the pace of Miller on the right and of Toby House on the left to stretch the Horley defence whilst trying to place a cross on the head of lone striker Melford Simpson. You could understand this tactic; Simpson was built like a boxer and significantly taller than his markers, and won every header when facing his own goal. The problem with this tactic was that he often had nobody to knock the ball down to, which gave up possession on a regular basis. But it wasn’t difficult to see why Shoreham had scored eight goals in their previous FA Cup fixture against St Francis Rangers. They were unrecognisable from the team that finished 5th from bottom of the Sussex County League last year.
Horley, for their part, looked to soak up the pressure and then break quickly, with their forwards pushing up as far as possible then attempting to get behind the defence and latch on to any clearance. This also had some effect despite a number of offside decisions, and there could easily have been goals at each end. Sadly, however, there were none. Musselman Miller looked particularly downcast at half time, and couldn’t really be criticised for being peeved. By this point he’d put in seven fabulous crosses, none of which had been converted by his teammates.
It took just four minutes of the second half for Shoreham to go ahead. Toby House, who rather disappointingly doesn’t have a sister named Wendy, ran strongly into the box and had his heels clipped by Horley midfielder Giles. House made nothing of this challenge and attempted to continue his run, but the referee stopped play and pointed to the spot. The Horley bench were extremely unhappy, and it must be said that none of the home team had claimed a foul, but former Brighton & Hove Albion midfielder Kane Louis stepped up and slotted the ball home to the delight of his teammates.
For most of the next twenty minutes the home team controlled the match, whilst the away bench got more and more annoyed. The penalty decision obviously still rankled, and with every decision given to the home team the tension rose. On the pitch too the Horley frustration showed. Liam Giles, particularly, was approaching the end of his tether, and earned a yellow card for a late tackle, becoming the target of his own management team. “I’m running on my own out there,” he yelled at them in response. He wasn’t running at all for too much longer, as the manager hauled him off, replacing him with Nathan Jupp.
Substitutions seemed to change the match. Both sides made use of their benches, but there was a marked difference in their impact. Shoreham had been well on top before their tinkering began, but the changes seemed to interrupt their pattern of play rather than improving it. Horley, by contrast, became much more positive. But there was still a large element of good fortune about the goal that drew them level.
A long speculative shot from the Horley number nine looked it would be easily saved by Nick Taylor in the Shoreham goal. He dived to his right, and somehow the ball squirmed from his grasp and ended in the back of the net. The scorer turned a triple somersault; the keeper looked as if he wished the earth would swallow him up. It must be said, however, that from this point onwards Taylor was inspired, making a number of superb saves as Horley went for the jugular- including one with his face.
As the final whistle blew a light plane flew overhead and a large proportion of the crowd looked skyward. Suddenly the tragedy was once more brought to mind. Both teams had pledged £500 from their FA Cup winnings towards the disaster appeal, and many of the other Non League teams in the area had followed their lead and made similar commitments.
Those present today had enjoyed the game. But in the scheme of things, football was no more than a distraction.
The replay, on Tuesday 1st September, ended Horley Town 2 Shoreham 3. Shoreham play Eastbourne Town in the First Qualifying Round on September 12th.
To give to the disaster appeal, please follow this link: http://www.sussexgiving.org.uk/shoreham-air-show-disaster/
To give to the Worthing United FC appeal in memory of Matt Grimstone and Jacob Schilt, please follow this link: http://www.gofundme.com/bh2pr7dm
For more pictures, follow this link: Facebook pictures
Published on in Steps 3-6.