King blames errors at both ends for Rooks’ failure to close out the win against Horsham in the big New Year Sussex derby

STEVE KING blamed a missed penalty – and Lewes for giving the ball away deep into added time – for Horsham’s late, sickening equaliser in the big Sussex derby at the Dripping Pan today.

King’s Lewes side were leading through Harry Harding’s 36th minute goal in this midday kick off at the Pan, a game that drew more than a thousand spectators through the gates.

Despite missing some gilt-edged opportunities after the break to put the game beyond the bottom-of-the-league visitors – not least Albert Jarrett’s tame penalty on that was saved comfortably by Michael Hunter – the Rooks looked to have seen the game out with just seconds of the match remaining.

But Hugo Langton’s men pulled off a shock equaliser in the fourth minute of added time when, following a panic in the Lewes box (when the hosts could easily have given away a penalty of their own), the ball came to Kery Kedze 20 yards out – and the Hornet made no mistake in drilling a shot past Rikki Banks in the Lewes goal.

His shot was practically the last kick of the match but, as King pointed out afterwards, it all could have been averted had defender Max Hustwick ensured a free kick, awarded to Lewes near their own corner flag, been kept in play rather than kicked straight out – thereby giving Horsham the perfect opportunity to have one last go at their hosts.

“I just felt that, when we had the free kick in the corner, (if) Max keeps the ball on the pitch, the game’s alive and we’re competing,” said King.

“When that free kick was there, the ref walked past me and I said, ‘How long’, and he said, ‘Thirty seconds’, and in my mind I thought it was done, finished... clear it up the pitch, there’ll be a tussle in the air, it’ll bounce and dur-dur-dur-dur... the whistle will go.

“But he kicks it straight off the pitch. They then throw it down the line, he (the Horsham player) cuts in and it goes across – and it’s a little bit frantic, and then they score.

“But saying that, if they don’t strike that (goal), they have a penalty in there as well, cos Matty Somner’s taken (a Horsham player) clean out, and then Malvin’s come in and hit someone as well, and I thought, “Wow, he hasn’t given those, it might be a bit of luck for us”, and then it went straight to their geezer and he’s smashed it in.”

The Rooks boss admitted he wasn’t impressed by his players’ quibbling amongst themselves before it was decided who should take the penalty that would surely have wrapped up the points for Lewes – but King also insisted the Hornets keeper should have gone for denying Harry Harding a clear goalscoring opportunity.

The Lewes manager said: “I said the keeper should have been sent off, because he’s denying a goalscoring opportunity and that’s the law. It’s not ‘if there’s a one (body) on the line’ and all that, that’s immaterial now – they could have had five on the line, you can deny a goalscoring opportunity and it’s a straight red card. So I said to the ref that he should never have been on to even save that. And they’ve got no goalie on the bench so they put a (outfield) player in goal.”

“But if we score that it’s 2-0 and it’s finished, isn’t it? It was a poor penalty. No one really took the bull by the horns and said: ‘I’m taking it’. Michael (Malcolm) sort of said: ‘I’m might take it’, Christian (Nanetti) said: ‘I might’, and Harry said: “I might’ – and then Albert takes it.

“(But) you know, we didn’t have (Paul) Boothy on there that takes penalties, we didn’t have (Nic) Ciardini on there that takes penalties, so...”

King added: “The game was shocking first half, probably the worst first half performance since I’ve been here, but credit to (Horsham) they had a couple of good chances.

“But second half we were all over them, we dominated the second half: Michael should have scored, Robbo (Steve Robinson) should have scored, Christian should have scored – we missed a penalty. We score the penalty and it’s all over.

“{But} we still looked comfortable after that, totally. All right, they were going to put balls into the box – they tried hard and worked hard as a unit for their team and they score in the 94th minute.

“But that’s a kick in the teeth, the 94th minute.”

See this Friday’s Sussex Express for more reaction and a full match report.