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‘Magnificent’ players saluted as Horsham land Bostik League play-off spot

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Manager Dominic Di Paola saluted his ‘magnificent’ Horsham players which have secured the club a Bostik League South East Division play-off place.

The Hornets won their penultimate away game in Kent on Saturday, beating Herne Bay 3-2 to ensure they cannot now finish outside of the top five – with two games to spare.

Herne Bay v Horsham. Chris Smith slots home his opener. Picture by John Lines

Herne Bay v Horsham. Chris Smith slots home his opener. Picture by John Lines

Goals from Chris Smith, Lee Harding and Kieran Lavery secured the three points that now means that sixth-placed VCD Athletic – who beat East Grinstead 5-4 – cannot finish above them.

Saturday saw a see-saw game in which Bay twice levelled before Lavery’s 78th-minute winner.

Di Paola said: “They are a really good side and I do not know why they have had the season they have had – on paper they are a good team.

“It was one of our best wins because we did not play very well, so it’s one of those that it is good to get a win in.

“They did not have very many chances, but took them well. From our point of view, it was good to come away with three points because it is a tough place to go and the pitch was pretty poor.

“Credit to the boys they dug in and once it got to 3-2 we contained them a bit.”

With Cray Wanderers securing the league title on Saturday, attentions will now turn to capturing as many points in their remaining two fixtures from the points-to-game ratio and also securing home advantage in the play-offs.

Di Paola continued: “We are looking at Faversham first and we will get what we can out of that. Then we go Guernsey. We have had a great season, the boys have been magnificent and I am really happy.

“We can only get what points we can get. At the end when the whole league has finished we can then see what the situation is.

“There have been a lot of boxes to tick this season. You have to get in the play-offs, finish in the right position, win a semi-final, win a final and then look at the points-to-game thing, so it’s a lot of ticking boxes and it’s a very unusual situation.

“We will have to see when our season ends and see where we are. We might be in a position where we can go up or we might not. It’s a really hard one this year, it’s a weird old scenario.

“It’s been really enjoyable though, I have enjoyed it and the boys have enjoyed it. We have a couple more league games to go out and express ourselves and see where that takes us.”

On Saturday, the visitors led after just seven minutes when Lee Harding floated in a corner and Joe Shelley headed it back across goal for Smith to tap home, but the hosts levelled ten minutes later through Bradley Schafer.

Horsham restored their lead just before the break when a ball in by Tyrell Richardson-Brown found Harding at the back-post and he headed home.

In the second half, Herne Bay again equalised again, this time through Tahjae Anderson, in the 54th minute, but Lavery secured the three points 12 minutes from time.

Horsham: Pelling, Metcalf, Miles, Shelley, Sparks, Brivio (Lovegrove 87), Hayward, O’Toole, Richardson-Brown (Lavery 72), Harding, Smith (Taylor 90). Unused: Hyde, Pearse.

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Here’s how Horsham are sitting in the crucial points-to-game standings

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Horsham are currently sitting pretty with their points-to-game ratio – boasting the eighth best from 28 teams that are currently in the play-off mix at Step 4.

It has been long known that all the play-off winners this year will not go up with two victories sides missing out.

Last year’s restructuring brought an extra league at Step 4 meaning that there will be 14 teams vying for 12 promotion places.

When the seven league winners go up, that will mean that two play-off winners will not be promoted, which will be decided on a points-to-game ration throughout the season.

The two play-off winners with the lowest tally will heartbreakingly miss out on going up.

With Horsham sealing their position in the Bostik League South East top five on Saturday – the focus now is very much on trying to win every game and improve their current points-to-game ratio which is 2.00.

To put that in context, Bromsgrove Sporting have the top points-to-game tally of 2.314 and Didcot Town the worst on 1.60.

Hornets boss Dominic Di Paola has, for a number of weeks, been calling on his side not to let up in their play-off pursuit.

Ahead of sealing their place with a 3-2 win at Herne Bay on Saturday, the manager had said: “I quite like the fact we are not their yet. It sharpens the mind. With the points-to-game thing, it’s almost like you have to go to the last game of the season anyway.”

And that will be the continuing message as Horsham complete their season this weekend. They first host Faversham Town on Saturday, before travelling to Guernsey on Easter Monday – with six points the target.

They are without a game on the final Saturday of the season (April 20) as they were due to play the now defunct Thamesmead Town.

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Horsham YMCA boss Buckland: 'If I had been offered second at Christmas I would’ve taken it'

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Peter Buckland believes a second-place finish would represent a good season for Horsham YMCA after an injury-blighted Christmas seriously curtailed their bid for the Premier Division title.

One win in six games, from December 8 to January 12, saw YM’s ravaged squad drop down to third and strike a blow to any chances of promotion to the Bostik League.

Since then the Gorings Mead-outfit have gone on a 12 game unbeaten run and now occupy the runners-up spot.

But any hopes of catching table-topping Chichester City were extinguished a fortnight ago, as Chi secured the title after a 2-0 home win over Langney Wanderers.

Buckland said: “If I had been offered second at Christmas time I would’ve taken it. We were going like a train up until Christmas and then we hit a brick wall with injuries.

“From the chairman down, we didn’t truly realise the trees that we’ve pulled up to be where we are.

“We’ve had Callum Donaghey, Luke Donaldson, Dave Brown, Ash Dugdale, Dan Mobsby, Tom Gilbert, Adam Hunt, Ollie Gill, Jack Frankland and Jack Hartley all out. I know it’s not unique to me but I’m not sure many teams can say they’ve got ten out, and of that ten, seven would start.

“I know my starting XI and I know my good bench of five and I know my formation and pattern of play. Have I been able to use it? Not since October.

“Unless you’ve got a big budget and you can phone a Lewes or a Worthing and ask if they have a couple of players available for a month you can get through it. We can’t do that. You just have to muddle your way through.

“People thought ‘YM have lost their bottle again at Christmas’ but it’s nothing to do with them not wanting it. It was simply injuries.

SEE ALSO Buckland ‘grateful’ for victory over Hassocks on a ‘mixed up day’ for Horsham YMCA | Buckland hails young guns as Horsham YMCA scoop Team of the Month award for March | Horsham YMCA ‘deflated’ after last-gasp Newhaven equaliser but Buckland sees the positives
“I was confident of being right in the mix at the start of the season and I’m somewhat surprised, after everything that has gone on, that we’re as high up as we are.

“It’s been frustrating but somewhat pleasing that we are where we are.”

Buckland has already begun planning for the 2019/20 campaign and revealed that YMCA would have to strengthen if they are to claim the Premier Division crown.

But the YM boss will continue to give his under-23 players game time next term, after they impressed during Horsham YMCA’s torrid run.

He added: “We will be recruiting and we’ve already earmarked players. I’m already focussing on next season. We definitely will need to strengthen the squad because I can’t have this situation again.

“If I knew this squad of 18 were all going to be available all through the season, I’d happily stick with them.

“Maybe we’ve got an aging squad. Some of them may have to accept that they may take a bit longer to heal.

“The good thing to come out of this is we’ve blooded the youngsters from the under-23s. Leon Eales, Jack Ryder, and Brad Ross have stepped up into the breach and done really well.

“In an ideal world I would’ve phased them in with experienced players, maybe two at a time. They’ve been thrown in at the deep end, not in there natural position, but they’ve taken to it like a duck to water.”

YM make the short trip to near-neighbours Broadbridge Heath on Saturday, before they host Crawley Down Gatwick on Tuesday.

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Nude swimming introduced at Arundel Lido for The Great British Skinny Dip

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Naturists will be able to go costume-free at Arundel Lido when the outdoor pool joins in The Great British Skinny Dip for the first time.

This thrilling new event will give adults the opportunity to swim naked for one night only, as part of the national event in July.

Arundel Lido has Arundel Castle as the backdrop

Arundel Lido has Arundel Castle as the backdrop

Read more on Project LEAP: Lido expansion plans take giant leap forward

Nikki Richardson, general manager, said: “This event is for over-18s only and is a fundraiser to help with the cost of our new changing huts.”

The Great British Skinny Dip will be at Arundel Lido on Wednesday, July 3, from 7pm to 9pm.

Last season, Arundel Lido welcomed more than 38,000 visitors to its pools, making it the best season yet.

Nikki added: “Let’s hope 2019 is the same, if not better. Last year provided Arundel Lido with plenty of visitors, bookings and, best of all, numerous sunny days.”

This summer season will be the 16th since the lido was taken over by Arundel and Downland Community Leisure Trust, a registered charity.

The gates open on Saturday, May 4. Adults of all fitness levels are welcome to join the early-morning boot camp with Five Seven Fitness at 8.45am, then from 10am, there will be free entry to the pools for the day. A retro sports day will be held on the field, with traditional races run by Arundel Lido volunteers for adults and children.

The season continues until Sunday, September 8, with both pools open Monday to Friday, 12pm to 6pm, and weekends 10am to 7pm.

Season tickets bought in advance from the lido or over the opening weekend will receive a £5 early bird discount. The office is generally manned 9.30am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday, but telephone 01903 884772 in advance if you would like to pop in and pay.

Nikki said: “Exciting weekly activities to look forward to this season include South Coast Mermaids, inflatable sessions, swimming lessons, boot camp, aqua aerobics, adult-only swims and parent and toddler sessions, with swim lessons included.

“Active Academies will also be running two Swim and Run camps during the school holidays, Raw Energy Pursuits is running the Arundel Triathlon and Tuff Fitty is hosting numerous training sessions for their members.”

During the winter, Arundel Lido has continued to seek funding towards Project LEAP, through bids and events, including a Casino Royale evening at Hilton Avisford Park, which raised nearly £3,000.

Planning permission for this further development of the site was granted in June last year and the new outdoor changing huts will help keep the traditional feel of the lido.

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