The appointment of TJ Barbato as Sheerwater’s new manager paid instant dividends last Saturday (January 20, 2024) as he inspired them to a priceless victory at Horley Town.

Barbato became the Sheers’ boss on Wednesday week (January 17), replacing Gareth Price who took over from John Comer in November.

And Barbato, who joined after a spell as Abbey Rangers’ under-23s’ gaffer, oversaw a tremendous 2-1 success at The New Defence that hauled Sheerwater off the bottom of Cherry Red Records Combined Counties League Premier Division South.

Price, his assistant manager David McHugh and coaches Paul McKenna and Dan Parsons all left Sheerwater last week.

Sean Wallace, who worked under Comer and Price, has been appointed Barbato’s assistant. Luke Stone has joined the Sheers as coach, having moved from Abbey.

But there was nothing last-minute about Sheerwater’s triumph at Horley.

Winners’ secretary Trevor Wenden said: “TJ gave new starts to Matthew Bryant, Louis McGrane and James Louison, all formerly of Abbey Rangers. 

“Mo Sabek and Elliot York were also back in the starting XI, with George Sellick also starting for his second appearance after coming on as a substitute against Knaphill the previous Saturday and scoring our only goal.

“In the early stages we showed hesitancy in our defence. But that was probably down to having three new defenders playing. 

“Our keeper Joe Hill had to save at the near post after a succession of Horley corners.

“But we had a chance after five minutes with a shot on target from Frazier Osunkoya that was punched away by Horley’s keeper George Hyde. 

“After eight minutes, Ben Portbury fouled a Horley player in our area for the home side to be awarded a penalty. 

“Jake Roberts stepped up to take the penalty but drove his shot wide of the goal. 

“On 12 minutes, Michael Milne and Sellick combined well on the left side. This led to Horley conceding a corner.

“The flag-kick looped into the Horley area and James Louison headed over the Horley bar. That was a good chance to score. 

“Soon Hill came to the rescue with a tip-over save after Louison back-headed the ball. 

“After 26 minutes, Horley’s number three Owen Ansell ventured down the left and put a good ball into our area – but fortunately the Town forwards failed to take the chance. 

“Milne had a shot blocked before Horley number seven Josh Alder hit our bar from 25 yards. 

“We took the lead on 40 minutes. Louison sent the ball over to top of the Horley defence to Sellick, who cut in from the left wing and went into the Horley area to score with a good finish under pressure.

“But we almost conceded in the first minute of the second half. A Horley shot on target cannoned off one of our defenders and went for a corner. 

“We responded with two long-distance shots from Milne. 

“After 50 minutes, Horley number ten Josh Rapson shot wide to waste a good chance.

“We soon attacked, with Osunkoya holding up the ball and releasing Sellick down the left. He cut in and sent in a shot that Hyde saved one-handed. Then Roberts curled the ball to the far side but Hill saved.

“On 64 minutes, James Darvill threaded a good ball up the left side to Sellick who got his shot away, only for it to blocked. 

“Sabek was replaced by Zac Jervis, who was involved in our second goal – after 72 minutes. Darvill cut the ball back to Jervis who moved it to Milne, who slid it to the oncoming York to slot home. 

“After two Horley attempts   on goal that were halted by good defensive play from McGrane and Darvill, the hosts make a breakthrough on 79 minutes.

“The ball was sent through our defence, committing Hill to progress out of his goal.

“That allowed Horley to get the ball back to the edge of the area for Scott Walker to fire in at the far post. 

“But we almost got a third goal, on 83 minutes.

“Portbury’s pass to York found Osunkoya lurking in the Horley penalty area – but his shot was blocked on the line. 

“George Onwusonye replaced Osunkoya after 84 minutes and we ran the time down.

“But we had to endure eight minutes of added time from somewhere.

“We were relieved to hear the final whistle and record a second win out of our last four league matches.

“The management team praised the players, the award for the standout performance going to McGrane.”

Barbato said after the game: “A whirlwind week, a really positive start from the group. 

“We have a long way to go. One game at a time.”

Of taking the manager’s job, he said: “Sheerwater is a club I had played at, which is even more important why I understand how much this means to the club to get it right.

“This is a mammoth challenge, one I won’t shy away from.”

The Sheers travel to Camberley Town in the league on Saturday.