Shoreham 1-1 Horley Town
FA Cup Prelimninary Round, 29 August 2015.
It’s probably safe to say that too much time is spent on football. Watching it, dissecting it, hanging on every word of players and managers who quite frankly, don’t have a lot to say. But when push comes to shove, football can bring people together when it really matters.
On a sunny Saturday afternoon two young lads from Worthing United FC were travelling along the A27 to play a game for their team. A team that had just had the most successful season in its history. But fate had other plans. A Hawker Hunter jet from the nearby Shoreham air-show crashed into the road killing 11 people including the two footballers.
Sussex went into shock, Worthing cancelled all forthcoming games and issued an emotional statement “At this point, we don’t know how or if we will cope with this.”
Goalkeeper Matt Grimstone was a groundsman for Brighton and Hove Albion, while midfielder Jacob Schilt was a Seagulls supporter who have played for the fans’ team in charity matches. The Championship club have pulled out all the stops to do whatever they can for a club whose manager said was “pretty much on its knees.” Worthing United’s next game is Sunday in the FA Vase with Albion helping with ticketing and stewarding, which as one of the Worthing officials pointed out “Will undoubtedly be the biggest game in the clubs history, sadly for the wrong reasons.”
So on FA Cup day it seemed appropriate to pay our respects at Worthing’s near neighbours Shoreham who were taking on Horley Town from the Combined Counties in the preliminary round (or round two if we were being sensible about it). Non league football is a close-knit community and both clubs had agreed that whoever won the game would donate £500 of their cup prize money to the Shoreham Memorial Fund.
As we arrived just in time for the minutes silence, filmed by ITV and local station Latest TV, Middle Road was busier than usual. A decent crowd of 142 – nearly double what they get when Brighton are playing away and three times what they get when the Albion are at home – had come to show their respects. The pull of the Albion has a big effect on the local non league scene, with crowds dipping and players disappearing to the AMEX – even the Horley Town supporters flag had the Albion plastered over it.
In the last round these two teams had scored 15 goals between them against their opponents but instead of a goal-fest it was still 0-0 with 70 minutes gone despite the odd chance, some good saves and wayward shots. Both teams huffed and puffed and the big Shoreham lad who had banged in 5 goals in the previous round seemed out of sorts.
Shoreham finally scored in the 51st minute when Horley gave away a needless penalty that was well dispatched by Shoreham’s player-manager. A horrible bobble and Horley equalised 20 minutes later and both teams go again.
Of course you could say that football doesn’t matter when tragedies like this happen, but I think it does. While I can’t imagine the grief the families are going through, it can only help to see just how people have come together, including an amazing sea of floral tributes on the harbour bridge. The outpouring of grief, the minutes silence, the messages of goodwill from across the country, all have been heartening.
They might not set the world alight, but clubs like Shoreham and Worthing United are important parts of our communities that contribute much more than just some footballers huffing and puffing after a leather ball. They are part of the glue that binds communities together and our towns, cities and villages would be much poorer places without them.
(ed: of course, Shoreham won the replay last night 3-2)
Photos by kind permission of Mike Dinsdale.