Second best throughout the game and particularly the first half, Wanderers were punished by The Hornets in the latter stages of the opening period as two goals in as many minutes from Daniel Ajakaiye and Shamir Fenelon gave Marc White’s men a mountain to climb, and despite slight improvements after the restart, the lead ultimately proved too much to overturn, and so the wait for Wanderers to reach the first round proper of football’s oldest club competition continues.
There were two changes to the side defeated against Barnet last weekend; Matt Briggs returning to the starting eleven as Bobby-Joe Taylor made way, Callum Kennedy also coming back into the side in place of Isaac Philpot at the back.
The contest began at a quick tempo, the hosts with a couple of dangerous deliveries from set pieces in the opening minutes, Prior then spurning the first proper effort on goal with a volley over the bar after Josh Taylor’s long throw was only half cleared.
On 12 minutes Dom di Paolo’s side thought they had opened the scoring, only for the goal to be controversially chalked off. Daniel Ajakaiye’s cross rolled right across the box and into the feet of skipper Jack Brivio, whose low effort cannoned into the back of the net via a deflection. With the ball positioned on the centre spot and ready for the restart of play, the referee consulted his assistant referee and the fourth official, and a belated decision was taken for the goal to be ruled out for offside, to the bemusement of both home and away supporters within the capacity crowd.
Not phased by the setback, Horsham continued to be the brighter side for the remainder of the half, transferring play swiftly into the lively front trio who were often winning their duals and making headway in the final third. Wanderers by contrast were overly-persistent with their more direct approach; often lacklustre with the balls played forward and ultimately comfortable for the centre back pairing of Jack Strange and former Wanderer Sami El-Abd to deal with.
Shamir Fenelon got the better of both Cook and Gallagher in consecutive attacks as the front-man surged into the Wanderers box from the channels, after his cross was cleared at the near post first time around he then faced up Male one-on-one but could only lash his strike at goal into the side-netting.
Cautioned for dissent in the aftermath of the ruled out goal earlier on, Joe Cook was replaced by Aaron Kuhl midway through the half as Marc White enforced his policy of not wanting to risk players playing on yellow cards with lengthy periods of the game remaining. Dan Gallagher dropped into the middle of the back three as Kuhl entered central midfield.
Remaining in the ascendancy The Hornets managed to take the deserved lead in the run up to half-time; Charlie Hester-Cook with a brilliant reverse pass to send Lee Harding away in the right channel, the full-back’s cross was then tucked home by Ajakaiye arriving several yards out.
Just two minutes later, the advantage was doubled. A mis-hit pass from Briggs turned into an aerial long ball up-field with an awkward bounce, brought under control well by Fenelon, who then approached the penalty area and unleashed a clinical effort which swung away from Male to find the far side of the net.
Hester-Cook had a couple of strikes closed down as Horsham picked up where they left off directly after the interval, but Wanderers did go as close as they would do all game just moments later, Josh Taylor’s header bouncing back off the crossbar.
Marc White tried to freshen up his side by introducing Bobby-Joe Taylor and Ryan Seager for Matt Briggs and Harry Ottaway before the hour mark, and Wanderers did start to gradually generate more productivity in the final third, yet still overly-reliant on the more direct route and unable to trouble keeper Lewis Carey. Kennedy’s free kick was only cleared as far as Kuhl, he would drive a strike over the bar, as would Blair before Bobby-Joe connected sweetly with a half-volley inside the box following a Josh Taylor long throw, the Horsham defence able to make a well-timed interception.
The Hornets front three were still proving to be a handful in sparser periods, Kuhl producing an excellent block to deny Ajakaiye after he tricked his way nicely into the box from the left flank and fired a strike toward goal, the man of the match for the home side dragging another shot fractionally wide of the post before Reece Myles-Meekums had a perfect opportunity to well and truly put the game to bed. After doing well to stay onside and get one-on-one with Male, the man on dual-registration from Worthing was denied by his former team mate at The Rebels with an imposing block.
Prior bent an effort around the post with the outside of his boot and a deflection carried Blair’s strike over the top right stantion as Wanderers pushed to get back in the game in the late stages, but with Carey still untested, the men in red and white were unable to set up a grandstand finish or rescue the tie through five minutes of time added on.
A bitterly disappointing day for Marc White’s side, the manager will now have to lift his team ahead of back-to-back away fixtures in the league with a visit to Altrincham the first of those trips next Saturday at The J. Davidson Stadium.