Sutton United v Horsham FC in the FA Cup: Unbelievable cup run has given Hornets supporters and the town memories to cherish
and live on Freeview channel 276
Horsham exited the tournament after a 3-0 defeat at League Two’s bottom club Sutton United.
The Hornets – who were making their first second round appearance in 16 years owing to an ‘administrative error’ from first round opponents Barnsley – enjoyed a number of standout moments in this year’s competition.
Horsham humbled National League outfit Dorking Wanderers in the fourth qualifying round to set up a first round tie at former Premier League club Barnsley.
The Hornets held the Tykes to an epic 3-3 draw at Oakwell, before eventually losing out to the League One side in a replay broadcast live on ITV.
Reflecting on Horsham’s run, Di Paola said: “It’s been a great experience. The two Barnsley games were just mind-blowing.
“It was an unbelievable experience to play up there and put in the performance that we did. I don’t think we were quite able to do that in the follow-up game against Barnsley and at Sutton. There was a bit of magic on our side that night [at Barnsley] that allowed us to perform like that.
“But the publicity we’ve got for the town, as well as some of the memories the supporters have got, have made it a great experience.”
The win over the Hornets meant Sutton advanced to the third round of the FA Cup for the first time in seven years.
Di Paola was very complimentary in his assessment of Horsham’s Football League opponents, but singled out two U’s stars for special praise.
He said: “The front two were a handful all game, [Aiden] O’Brien and [Harry] Smith. They put it on you and we had to contend with it constantly.
“There was never a period in the game where you could have a breather because the ball ended up back with those boys regularly.
“We watched their last four or five games and we knew what they were going to do, but we haven’t got players big enough to bring in to a training session to try and replicate it.
“It was very difficult for us to do any work on it apart from showing them [the players] on a video what they usually do.
“It was really effective. They’ve had success playing this way and it’s hard for teams like us to adjust to it.
“But they’ve got quality everywhere. Both their wingers were good before Patrick came on, they were solid at the back, and they’ve got good athletic players.”
The Hornets return to Isthmian Premier matters when Canvey Island visit the Camping World Community Stadium on Tuesday [December 5] evening.
Horsham sit tenth in the table, but are just eight points off the play-offs with five games in hand on fifth-placed Wingate & Finchley.
Di Paola joked it would take him a while to get over the loss at Gander Green Lane, but called on his players to bounce back in midweek and put in a performance to maintain their promotion aspirations.
However the Hornets boss conceded that playing twice a week until at least February would be a ‘tough ask’ for his part-time players.
Di Paola added: “It takes me a long time to get over a defeat, so that’s going to be a bit of a problem for me!
“But in terms of getting back to normal on Tuesday, we’ll be fine from my point of view.
“It’s up to the boys now to react and go and put in a performance at home.
“We need to get some of these games in hand out the way. We’ve got a lot in hand and, although you look at the points and think it’s fine, it’s hard chasing [teams].
“[Playing] Saturday, Tuesday is hard for non-league players. It’s a tough ask.”