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Horsham boss Di Paola – 'For the local community and our supporters it was a brilliant day'

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Dominic Di Paola hailed a ‘brilliant day’ for Horsham and their supporters as they officially opened The Camping World Community Stadium with a 3-1 friendly victory over Crawley Town of the Football League on Saturday.

Chris Smith’s deft chip gave the Hornets a shock lead before Reece Grego-Cox’s thunderous strike restored parity before half-time.

But a second-half Kieran Lavery double ensured that Horsham secured a famous win on an historic day for the club.

Di Paola said: “For the local community and our supporters it was a brilliant day.

“We’re quite detached from it because we’re the actual team. We’re there all the time so we take it for granted.

“But for everyone else connected with the football club it must have been special, especially ones that have never been to the ground before.

“To walk into that stadium on Saturday would have been a massive buzz for them.

“Seeing a big gate and people queuing for beers and kids running around wearing the Horsham kit and trying to get signatures from the players is amazing.

“I think it’s what the club’s needed for so long so hopefully some of those people that came and watched on Saturday will keep coming.”

READ MORE Horsham v Crawley Town picture special | Horsham 3 Crawley Town 1: Hornets mark official ground opening with stunning win over Reds | Lack of depth in Crawley Town’s squad is exposed – Geoff Thornton
Horsham went toe-to-toe with their higher-level opposition and ended up prevailing over a side who are three divisions above them.

Although Lavery bagged two goals – including a sensational curled effort that made it 3-1 – and new boy Zack Newton gave the Crawley defence a torrid time, Di Paola preferred to focus on a complete team performance.

The Hornets manager added: “The most pleasing thing for me, not so much the individual performances, but that we worked really hard out of possession.

“Our shape work was pretty good and our structure was getting there which is what we needed to do as we’ve got a few new boys.

“I don’t think it’s fair to highlight anyone. I think it’s only a pre-season friendly at the end of the day.

“We really got what we wanted out of it. The fact that they train everyday and they’re super fit so they can get after us and press us.

“It was good and we were really grateful that they came down. They had a mixed squad together but at least there were some first team players in there.

“It was just a different challenge. They’re so sharp on the press and they’re so sharp in the traps they set, it was great for us to have that sort of challenge.”

Horsham travel to Eastbourne Town this (Tuesday) evening (7.45pm) in their fifth pre-season friendly match.

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Horsham's unbeaten start 'means nothing at this stage'

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Dominic Di Paola stressed that Horsham’s unbeaten start to the new BetVictor Premier Division campaign ‘means nothing at this stage’.

The Hornets sit in an impressive seventh-place after three games, recording two draws and a win following promotion last season.

But, despite a very strong start, Di Paola insisted that not much should be read into their opening fixtures.

He said: “I don’t think you’re going to know until six to eight games in. The table means nothing at this stage. Results don’t necessarily mean much.

“Against Bognor we thought we underperformed in the game and yet they’ve gone and thumped someone on Saturday.

“If you look at Carshalton last year they started badly but finished second.

“We’ll know more once we’ve played a load of teams. Once you’ve played ten games you can say, actually this is where we are and this is where we need to improve.”

Although the Hornets boss was quick to temper early expectations, Di Paola has been delighted how everyone within the squad has ‘played their part over the first three games’.

He added: “It has been a pleasing start. Apart from a half against Bognor I’ve been happy with the boys in general.

“If you look over the first three games we’ve used all sorts of different players in different shapes and everyone has bought in to that.

“We’re a squad. We’re not about individuals at Horsham so it’s great that everyone has played their part over the first three games.”

Horsham travel to Tower Hamlets in the FA Cup preliminary round on Saturday before visiting Lewes in the league on bank holiday Monday.

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Horsham YMCA and Broadbridge Heath claim first wins of the season while Loxwood and Alfold suffer defeat – SCFL midweek round-up

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Tuesday night saw a full round of SCFL Premier Division fixtures played out, with both Horsham YMCA and Broadbridge Heath earning their first victories of the campaign.

YMCA traveled to Plaistow Road to face Loxwood with both teams still searching for their maiden wins of the season, and it was YMCA who came out on top, winning a goal-filled encounter 4-3.

Prolific forward Martin Smith opened the scoring in the sixth minute to give the visiting YMCA the lead, but Loxwood equalised through Matt Boiling 20 minutes later. Just two minutes later however, Matt Daniel restored YMCA’s lead, before doubling it just after half time to put the away side 3-1 up.

Martin Smith scored again ten minutes later to put YMCA out of sight, and even a late double from Alfie Gritt wasn’t enough for Loxwood as YM held on to record their first victory of a so far difficult season. Loxwood remain winless with just one point from their opening four games.

Broadbridge Heath beat Alfold 1-0 to earn their first win of the season and move them up to five points.

An even first half saw the sides go in all square at the break, but a second half strike was enough to earn the Bears all three points and inflict a first defeat of the season on Alfold.

Steyning Town narrowly lost out 3-2 away at Horley Town and stay on three points in the league.

Goals from Ben Hands and Jamie Weston weren’t enough to claim anything from the game, with Horley player Tony Halsey scoring a hat-trick to leave visitors Steyning with nothing.

In Division One, Billingshurst lost 4-0 at home to Arundel to mean they have now lost both of their opening two games.

This followed defeat to Southwick on the opening weekend, leaving Billingshurst as one of four teams in Division One that are still searching for their first point of the season.

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Horsham YMCA remain 'a work in progress' after late equaliser denies them first league win

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Horsham YMCA assistant manager Julian Miller was pleased with his side’s performance on Saturday, but insisted it is still ‘a work in progress.’

Goals from Martin Smith and Dean Lovegrove looked like they would be enough to claim the win, but an 86th minute strike by Hassocks’ Ben Bacon meant the spoils were shared at Gorings Mead and YM had to settle for a point.

Miller admitted it was ‘a shame’ to lose the lead so late on, but remains confident that it will all come together ‘sooner rather than later.’

He said: “The performance was better than they have been. Obviously it’s a work in progress. We’ve had a few youngsters come in, a few players left, a few long term injuries, so it will take a while to settle down but they’re good players.

“They won the under-23 league last year, all the ones that have come up, so we’ve got to be patient with them and hope it clicks sooner rather than later. That’s the way we’re looking at it.”

Miller continued: “It doesn’t take a lot for them to get a bit despondent, but definitely on Saturday I thought we were worth the three points and it was just a shame to concede right at the end.

“But it is difficult. It’s a puzzle, and we’ve just got to get the right bits at the moment.”

READ MORE Horsham boss praises squad’s new-found confidence after Enfield Town win | Loxwood manager looks to the positives despite third late loss | Loxwood sunk by Crawley Down Gatwick late show in seven-goal thriller – picture special
Having lost some big players to higher divisions, Miller knows they have ‘a lot of goals to replace’ but is confident that striker Martin Smith can continue his form and have a successful season.

The assistant manager said: “I’ve got a lot of time for Martin Smith. He’s a handful, he’s a good finisher, but he makes defenders know he’s about. He’s what I call an old fashioned centre forward.

“The lads that have all moved on, are playing a higher standard and that’s good for the club. But when you get five of them go, that’s a lot in one hit and a lot of goals to replace.”

YMCA travel to neighbours Loxwood tonight (Tuesday) in the league. YM then host Egham Town in the FA Cup preliminary round on Saturday before welcoming Horley Town to Gorings Mead on Tuesday looking to pick up their first home win of the season.

Horsham YMCA: A Jeal, Carden, Evans, Gilbert, Harding, Ryder, Daniel, C Jeal (Nwachukwu 61), Smith, Lovegrove, Frankland (Wadhams 61). Unused: Gedling, Hunt, Dugdale.

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