Southern Combination premier division Champions Horsham’s fans arrived at Pagham in an open-top double-decker, but Dom Di Paola’s side certainly didn’t park the bus as they put on an attacking display to win the last-day encounter 1-0.
With Pagham knowing a win could take them a creditable third in the table, but the visitors on a high after taking the title, it was all to play for.
With the visiting supporters in fancy dress and the banners draped over the hoardings, a carnival atmosphere took over the Lions’ den.
The home side could have opened the scoring, James Thurgar marking his first start for the seniors with a chance that was dealt with.
At the other end, Keiron Pammet was close to taking the ball past an otherwise-faultless James Binfield.
Binfield was named as supporters’ player of the year before the game and showed how much it was deserved with a display that kept the Hornets at bay for most of the game.
Jordan Warren was denied by a marginal offside decision before Horsham’s Terry Dodd almost added to a prolific goal tally a minute later, turning Julian Boniface before striking a shot that Binfield did well to save.
Binfield pulled off another couple of great saves before Horsham were awarded a penalty.
Jake Hawker appeared to be the guilty party but Joe Shelley’s kick smacked the spot-kick against the post.
The deadlock was finally broken on the half-hour mark as Darren Boswell took advantage of hesitation in the Lions’ defence to strike past a stranded Binfield.
A superb move by the visitors ten minutes before the break saw Mark Knee halted by the offside flag.
Pagham skipper Dan Swain tried his luck from long range, only for the ball to go sailing over. Boswell and Dodd went on the hunt for goal, but were foiled by Binfield.
James Shaw was pressed into action for the visitors, clearing as the Lions looked for an equaliser.
The Lions began the second half with a free-kick that was poorly executed.
Joe Shelley found time and space to make a clear run on Binfield’s goal, only for the shot to be saved. Then Ryan Storrie tested Binfield.
Pagham’s Scott Murfin’s solo run from midfield deserved better than seeing his shot fly over the bar.
Ryan Cox went on the attack, but good build-up work was not matched by a shot.
Dodd tested Binfield and Josh Irish and David Crouch came on.
On 73 minutes, Cox saw yellow. Horsham’s corner saw Shelley go close with a header. Dodd raced through, only to miss a sitter.
Pagham picked up another couple of bookings, Dale Hayes and Dan Swain both getting cards.
There was time for a speculative Swain shot before the final whistle – and a top-six finish for the Lions’ first team, with the reserves and youth team both topping their leagues, marked progress and a chance of glory in 2016-17.
PAGHAM: Binfield, Hayes, Warren, Hawker, Boniface, Swain, Thurgar (Irish 60), N Murfin (Bingham 77), S Murfin (Crouch 60), Cox. Subs: Symonds, Davidson.
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