Cherry Red Records Combined Counties League Premier Division
Hartley Wintney 2 Horley Town 2
TWO Premier League clubs and one Championship promotion chasers watching Horley Town would have been about as unthinkable not so long ago as unfashionable Leicester City winning the top flight title.
But times are a changing in football and Clarets’ manager Anthony Jupp was an understandably proud man after Saturday’s remarkable revival to salvage a late draw at 10 men champions elect Hartley Wintney at The Memorial Ground, despite fielding such a young visiting side and naming only three substitutes who were all used effectively.
AFC Bournemouth and Crystal Palace, who were represented by ex-Eagles’ chief scout John Griffin, along with Premier League hopefuls Brighton & Hove Albion, scouted by Barry Lloyd, on The Seagulls’ third mission to watch 50-goal striker substitute Ashley Nadesan, who is continuing his Millwall trial, provided even higher stakes for this already attractive fixture.
Jupp admitted afterwards: "I think that we looked the more likely team to win the game late on and it was a great point away from home against the league champions in my view. So we have taken four points off first and second (Ashford Town Middlesex) in the table in two games.
"Again the lads have been brilliant this season, and that is young lads which not many teams can say that they have."
Jupp revealed that he had to overcome the players’ mind set in order to achieve such a superb result against all odds in adversity. "I think that the fact that our captain Adam Pullin was unavailable and that we put our top striker Ashley Nadesan on the substitutes bench meant that the other players thought that they had lost before setting foot on the pitch!
"I was disappointed that we conceded two goals from set plays within 10 minutes after half-time which were sloppy goals to let in. But we kept battling and got more into the game and Ashley had an effort which was ruled offside before we scored twice late on to return home with a deserved point from our travels."
An uneventful first half was most notable for visiting goal-line clearances respectively by expert Ryan Brackpool and Jack Poplett from captain Sam Argent and Liam Eagle after 20 and 37 minutes.
The deadlock was broken after 51 minutes when Shane Hollamby crossed from the right for skipper Argent to shoot home from close range.
A repeat move followed only a minute later when centre-back Steve Noakes converted Eagle’s delivery to net from close in.
Add in another goal-line clearance on the hour mark by Brackpool to deny Argent’s far post header and the hosts appeared to be in firm control.
But the game’s turning point came on 79 minutes when Noakes was sent off by referee William Davis following his last man foul on speedy substitute Nadesan, being dismissed for his second caution.
The Clarets capitalised by reducing the arrears crucially on 85 minutes when man of the match attacking right back Scott Robson was rewarded for his surging run down the right when his cross was not cleared properly and substitute striker Leyton Regan, who returned recently following a spell with East Grinstead Town, shot home past goalkeeper Craig Atkinson from 18 yards at the near post.
Determined Horley’s tails were really up now and they sensed a share of the spoils which came deservedly after 88 minutes. Richard Wetton, who had earlier proved that he can still pull the birds by removing an injured feathered friend from the pitch, hooked the ball home superbly, giving Atkinson no chance after Brackpool’s typically lethal long throw from the left saw the custodian miss his punch crucially and that man of many talents Wetton was on hand to snatch a rare goal and a precious point.
The Row’s joint manager Anthony Millerick paid tribute to the visitors in his programme notes. He said: "Horley have got a talented young bunch down at The New Defence. They have come a long way in recent years."
Indeed, perhaps even turning the clock back to the days when one Nicky Forster made the massive step up from Horley Town to join the professional ranks successfully.
Horley Town: George Hyde, Scott Robson, Jack Poplett (Ashley Nadesan 58 min), John Eldred (Connor Power 18 min), Liam Cox, Robert Burbidge, Bailey Rumbelow, Ben Herdman, Ryan Brackpool, Richard Wetton, Justin Ford (Leyton Regan 70 min).