The Camping World Community Stadium
The Camping World Community Stadium
Ground Number: 896
Tuesday 17th December 2019
Horsham 1-0 Whyteleafe FC
HORSHAM FC - A BRIEF HISTORY
The club was established in 1881, playing on local parks until 1904. That year they moved to Queen Street, which remained their home until 2008 when it was sold to property developers. For a couple of years, they shared at nearby Worthing, returning to Horsham in 2010 to share with Horsham YMCA whose old ground was near to their former ground. That lasted until 2017 when they moved into the Sussex FA Ground with Lancing FA. This season saw them move to their new ground at Hop Oast and have their first proper home in eleven years. The town of Horsham itself has a population of around 55,000 and famous former residents include Harry Enfield, Alan Mullery, Paul Parker and Holly Willoughby.
The team started out in local leagues and were founder members of the West Sussex League in 1896 and were highly successful there, winning it on four occasions. They made the step up to the Sussex County League in 1926. They were highly successful there, winning the title on seven occasions. They left the league in 1951 and had spells in the Metropolitan & District League (winning the title in their debut season), Corinthian and Athenian Leagues. In 1973 they joined the Isthmian League, initially in its second tier. Despite a 5th place finish in 1979, they were relegated to Division 2 the following season. There then followed a barren spell for the club, reorganisation in 1991 saw them drop a further step to Division 3, but by 1995 they were champions and won promotion back to Division 2. This time, they fared a lot better and by 2002, a runners-up spot behind Lewes was good enough for promotion to the newly formed Division 1 South. Another promotion followed in 2006 and they spent 6 seasons in the Isthmian Premier, recording their best-ever placing of 8th in their debut season of 2006/07. After finishing bottom of the table in 2012, the club suffered a loss of form and in 2015 were relegated back to the Sussex League for the first time in 64 years, albeit with it being renamed the Southern Combination Premier. They won the title at the first attempt, returning to Isthmian D1 South at the first attempt. Following two mid-table seasons, they finished as runners-up to Cray Wanderers, winning promotion through the playoffs. They are on course for a third successive promotion with them sitting 2nd in the Isthmian Premier before tonight's game.
The club's best ever FA Cup run came in 2007 when they beat Arundel, Bury Town, AFC Wimbledon, Chippenham Town and Maidenhead United to reach the 2nd Round. Despite taking the Football League side to a replay, they lost the second game 6-2 at the Liberty Stadium. The FA Vase 4th Round was reached in 1987 as they lost 3-1 at Collier Row in a replay. In the FA Trophy, the 2nd Round was their best progress, reached in 2003 when Horsham lost out to Thame United. Local cup wins include the Sussex Senior Cup (seven times), Sussex Floodlit Cup (twice), Sussex Royal Ulster Rifles Cup (thirteen times) and Brighton Charity Cup (six times). The club's record signing is Lee Farrell, one of the few deaf players to play in semi-professional football, he signed from Lewes in July 2007. The following season, they recouped £10,000 from Tonbridge Angels for Carl Rook.
This was to be my first Tuesday night game in some while, the last coming three weeks ago when I travelled to Ipswich Town to see Wycombe play out a 0-0 draw. I'd just couldn't be bothered on my own, what with the lack of interest from my fellow hoppers and the poor weather. However, this Tuesday was different with a decent range of options and Anwar indicating that he favoured Horsham v Whyteleafe. That was fine by me and with a number of games falling victim to the weather, the 3G pitch was ideal. The only disappointing aspect was the £11 admission fee, slightly above average for step 3 and for what was often a competition in which much-changed teams were used. I finalised the details on Sunday, planning what time to leave and where to eat dinner. This would be the third ground I'd seen Horsham play at, what with their previous groundsharing arrangements at Horsham YMCA and Lancing.
The day of the game came and I'd enjoyed a reasonable nights sleep, waking at 8.30. After breakfast, a bath and getting ready, I noticed on Twitter that some fellow hoppers had booked tickets to Bristol City v Shrewsbury Town. With that on my hitlist for a revisit, I duly booked a ticket at the bargain price of £10. I also booked the National Express coach for £19, slightly more than Megabus, but with a nicer coach and better customer service. I booked a later coach on my way home which will hopefully enable me to see another game at Portishead by way of a straightforward bus journey. All this mucking about meant that I was late leaving for my walk down town with me getting some lunch of chorizo pigs in blankets for lunch amongst other things before getting a lift back home with my Dad. After lunch, I spent the afternoon doing various things, including typing this blog and planning future trips. I left at 4, meeting Anwar half an hour later and soon we were on our way. There were a lot of small roads at either end of the route and the M25 was as you would expect it to be during the rush hour. We got to Horsham at 6.35 and parked up on the edge of the town. I'd selected a place called Cottage Piri Piri where I had Samosa and fries for under £3 which was nice. From there we drove the ten minutes to the ground, using the park and ride which was a few minutes from the ground. It was at that point that I realised I'd left my camera at home, meaning I'd have to use my phone which doesn't have the greatest camera.
Looking at the form, Horsham had been in mixed form over the past six games with three wins - 3-1 at Newhaven, 2-0 at Potters Bar Town and 1-0 over East Thurrock, a 1-1 draw at Littlehampton Town with them winning on penalties in the Sussex Senior Cup and two defeats - 2-1 at league leaders Folkestone Invicta and 3-0 at home to Margate. Whyteleafe were sitting 4th in the Isthmian D1 South East and they were unbeaten in the last six with wins over Three Bridges (3-1) and Sittingbourne (2-1) as well as at Tooting & Mitcham (2-1) and Whitstable and draws at Faversham Town (0-0) and at home to Sevenoaks Town (1-1). Horsham made four changes from their win over East Thurrock United on Saturday whilst Whyteleafe also made four changes from their draw at Sevenoaks Town. Whyteleafe hit the bar early on although it was Horsham who had the upper hand. It was a fantastic 20-yard strike from JJ O'Sullivan that found the top left-hand corner on 12 minutes, a goal that would have graced a game at any level, The first half was a pretty lively affair but towards the end of the half a bit of fog came down. Visibility was still acceptable, but it appeared as if the referee was desperate to call the game off. This resulted in a half-hour half time beak, much to the annoyance of the supporters who with the fog now cleared, just wanted to get on with it. The second half was not as enjoyable as the first and although the visitors did have a good spell, Horsham defended well. The referee really dragged his heels in getting on with the game, which took the pace out of it a bit. The game eventually finished very late, at 9.52.
There had been 175 in attendance for the game and some friendly people from the club to talk to. They recalled how a deaf player, Lee Farrell, played for them around ten years ago and I remembered him playing against AFC Wimbledon and looking a really decent player. It was about 10 by the time we left and we listened to TalkSPORT on the way home. I'm not a huge fan of 'The Sports Bar' with Andy Goldstein and Jason Cundy, but there was no choice if you wanted to hear people talk football. In the end, it wasn't too bad, even if the whole show was dedicated to Liverpool U23's 5-0 defeat to Aston Villa in the League Cup, despite the stats not reflecting that. Their first team were in Qatar, playing what basically amounts to a Worldwide Charity Shield contest. Google Maps took me the long way around the M25 rather than cross-country. It did have the benefit of much nicer roads to drive on, handy with a bit of fog still about. I dropped Anwar off at 11.30, getting home myself 20 minutes later. As ever, I couldn't go straight to sleep and stayed up for around half an hour before going to bed. Eventually, I dropped off, not having much sleep before I woke at 4 for work. With 3 am starts right up until Christmas Eve, my only game before Christmas will be on Saturday. Taplow is my first choice, but that is looking a bit iffy with the weather so I'll have a list of backups in place.
HOP OAST or The Camping World Community Stadium to give it its sponsored name is a smart new setup. The official capacity is listed as 1,300, but physically, its a lot more than that. The main stand is of a decent size, around 300 seats in green with 'HFC' picked out in yellow, The most attractive area is where you enter the ground behind one goal, thanks to the clubhouse, this has a small area of cover for around 20. Along the other two sides is mainly open, though there are a few metal-type stands with around another 50 seats and 200 covered standing spots.
The facilities at the ground are pretty decent. Although I tried neither, both tea bar and clubhouse having a decent selection, with the latter doing local real ale. There was also a well-stocked club shop with old programmes and books. There's nothing around the ground, the town is just over a mile away, but with no pavement, it's advised to take the bus instead to the local park and ride. This is very reasonable and a ticket for up to five passengers costs just £2 should you wish to do the reverse journey and park up and go into town. The club is nice and friendly, the only negative was the high admission price, though this is less of an issue for league games.