CRAY WANDERERS 1 AFC HORNCHURCH 2
A cloudy overcast day with light rain falling for most of the match, and an excellent pitch, but with conditions made difficult with a strong wind. Only one change from the team that played against Lowestoft, with Dave Collis coming in to the starting line up. Cray are in their 150th year and claim to be the second oldest team in the country, and they took the field in their brown and amber strip, designed especially for this season.
Hornchurch kicked into the strong downfield wind but dominated the first half, and in the first minute a Martin Tuohy run almost ended in a goal, had not Tyrone Sterling intercepted to concede a corner. Jonathan Hunt found Lewis Smith with the inswinging kick and Lewis played the ball back to Hunt, whose cross was headed away by Alex Bentley. Lewis Smith was creating chaos in the home defence, and it was a Smith through ball that put Frankie Curley clear, but he was pulled back for offside as he homed in on goal. Hornchurch were cutting through the home defence with ease and when Lewis Smith chased a ball into the penalty area, he was felled by a badly mistimed tackle from John Guest, and the referee, who had stepped in at the last minute to replace the scheduled referee who was unwell, immediately awarded a penalty. Up stepped JONATHAN HUNT to hammer a left footed shot low past Dave King, to the delight of the 150 away following in the crowd of 227.
Smith again set out on a long weaving run and was tackled by Alex Bentley for another corner. Dave Collis sent the ball over and Lewis Perkins cleared, but with Sam Holloway, Elliot Styles, Rickie Hayles and Billy Coyne in excellent form at the back, the ball was simply played back time and again into the home half. Darren Behcet was rarely in action but came into the game when Michael Spencer played a pass back, and it was the long Behcet upfield kick which found Smith who quickly slid the ball on to Martin Tuohy, whose first time shot was saved in excellent style by King.
Cray offered no threat and the closest they came was when Ross Lover hit a long range shot well wide of the goal. Tuohy then took a long pass from Holloway and played the ball across to Hunt, and thence on to Smith whose cross was turned out by Guest for another corner. Collis floated the ball over to Tuohy who headed on to Frankie Curley, and Frankie’s goal bound shot was deflected out for yet another corner. Collis took the kick again and the ball was tipped over by King. This time it was Jonathan Hunt who took the corner and Elliot Styles came up to head just inches over the bar. Michael Spencer then raced through, from a Hayles pass, and he was pulled down. Hunt took the free kick, with Collis lurking, and Hunt’s hard struck shot crashed against the inside of the post, before the ball was scrambled out for a corner. Collis sent the ball over and King punched away.
Billy Coyne sent a good pass to Hunt, whose long run opened up the home defence, before the ball was sent through to Curley, who turned sharply but slipped and hit the ball wide of the goal. Smith, in unstoppable form, then weaved through and placed the ball neatly to Hunt, whose shot hit the side netting. In stoppage time Laurent Hamici hit a free kick well wide of the goal, and though Hornchurch went in just one goal up, it could easily have been considerably more.
The light rain continued to fall in the second half, and the home side came out determined to do better than they had in the very one sided first period. They stormed upfield and a free kick created some concern in the Hornchurch defence before the ball was eventually grabbed by Darren Behcet. But it was quickly Hornchurch who again made the running, and Lewis Smith raced through the middle, but with two defenders closing in , he hit his shot inches wide of the post. And at last Behcet had a shot to save, when he dived to his left to hold a long hopeful attempt from Steve Lozano.
Hornchurch retaliated by sweeping downfield and Coyne sent Hunt away, and yet another corner resulted. Hunt floated the ball across, and the ball was quickly played back and JONATHAN HUNT calmly hammered the ball straight back into the net. Two nil and Hornchurch continued to dominate. Then Cray made a triple substitution, and though they were still forced to defend, they pulled a goal back when TYRONE STERLING moved upfield to force the ball over the line in a rare Cray breakaway.
For a short time Cray pressed forward and Allan McLeod made a good run to send Chris Saunders away on the right, and his cross led to two successive corners, though neither offered much of a threat. Then it was back to normal, with Holloway linking with Hunt who earned another free kick, with King saving the cross as it dipped into the goalmouth. Lewis Smith made the most of a long Darren Behcet upfield kick when he raced past the defence, and it took a quick thinking Dave King to rush out to grab the ball on the edge of the area.
Dave McSweeney came on for Martin Tuohy, Joe Benjamin for Jonathan Hunt and the Ronnie Fletcher for Smith, but it made little difference, as the home side were struggling to get the ball upfield. In stoppage time Michael Spencer went speeding through the middle and was scythed down well inside the area for a certain penalty – only for the referee to allow play to continue, a decision which infuriated the massive away following. The rain began to fall harder, but by now the three points were never in any doubt.