CONCORD RANGERS 1 AFC HORNCHURCH 2
An unchanged squad at picturesque Concord, where a light mist hung around the floodlights, and many Hornchurch followers, estimated at 150, played ‘hunt the programme’. Where were the programmes? Hidden underneath the one and only turnstile.
Hornchurch, wearing their Purple People Eater kit, eventually took all three points, but at a cost – two players, Rickie Hayles and Elliot Styles, ended up in hospital, whilst Martin Tuohy was reduced to a limping passenger for much of the second half. And the cost didn’t end there, as they incurred a £500 fine for five bookings, thanks to some disgraceful play acting which fooled a referee who seemed oblivious to what was going on.
Concord may be close to the foot of the league, but are none the less a very good side – and would be even better if only they would concentrate on playing football instead of amateur dramatics.
Concord, kicking towards the sewage farm in the first half, and Joe Anderson was caught out by a high dipping pass which reached the ever dangerous Tony Stokes, whose hard drive was blocked by Rickie Hayles. Hornchurch came back quickly and won a corner. Michael Spencer floated the ball over and Elliot Styles headed inches over. But Rickie Hayles lay prone on the ground, and needed lengthy attention for a facial injury. He was unable to resume.
With Hornchurch already struggling against what can best be described as some unusual decisions, Reiss Noel was caught out by a through ball which found Ryan Ware, whose first time shot was well saved by Joe Woolley. Woolley then raced out of goal to intercept a long ball from the right and collided heavily with a home forward, fortunately without injury, though the handful of home followers behind the goal – both of them – howled loudly for a penalty, which was rejected, firstly as the ball was outside the area, and secondly because it was not a foul.
Hornchurch had for nearly ten minutes been playing with just ten players, and Jon Hunt came on for Rickie Hayles, who was taken to hospital. Michael Spencer dropped back and Hunt played deeper than normal.
Woolley played a long ball up field and Martin Tuohy chased hard, but was scythed down inside the area, the penalty appeals from over one hundred away supporters behind the goal being ignored by the referee. At the other end Karl Beckford fired a free kick wide of the far post. Anderson combined with Hunt and Tuohy but Arthur Lee cleared for a throw. Anderson’s quick throw sent Tuohy away but his shot was blocked by Steve King
Lee White put in a long free kick which was well held by Joe Woolley, who quickly played the ball out to Les Thompson, who made ground on the right before crossing, and Tuohy’s shot went just over the bar. Hornchurch had an escape when a well flighted free kick was headed against the bar by King, with Woolley just getting a vital touch. Woolley began the next move with a good throw to Jon Hunt who combined with Simon Glover and Jo Anderson to give Lewis Smith an opening on the left. Lewis touched the ball back to Hunt whose cross was well held by keeper Craig Holloway.
Frankie Curley was booked for something that only the referee felt was worthy of a booking and Lewis Smith followed soon afterwards, again a very controversial decision. Smith almost found an opening when Curley sent him clear but Steve King darted back to tackle. And then Concord won a corner, Karl Beckford sent the ball over, King’s header was parried by Woolley and in the ensuing scramble for the ball, the referee awarded a penalty for Woolley’s challenge on Steve King. Woolley was booked, and up stepped TONY SOTOKES to hammer the penalty home, straight down the middle.
Frankie Curley again incurred the referee’s wrath following a challenge on Nicky Cowley, who was none too popular with the away following, who strongly disagreed with the referee’s decision to award Concord a free kick. Close to half time, Les Thompson was chopped down in full flight, and Hunt’s free kick was headed over by Elliot Styles, who got his header in despite a blatant push inside the area.
Within fifteen seconds of the second half, Michael Spencer went into the book for a tackle on Arthur Lee, and in the first Hornchurch move of the half, the loudest cheer of the day went up – yes, the referee had awarded a free kick to Hornchurch. Hunt took the kick and the ball was deflected out for a corner. Hunt sent the ball over and keeper Holloway punched clear. Glover, Hunt and Smith all exchanged passes before Hornchurch were awarded another free kick, and Hunt sent the ball to Lewis Smith who was sent crashing to the ground, well inside the area, but no action was taken.
When Smith opened up the defence Spencer’s shot was well saved by Holloway, and shortly afterwards Hunt weaved through the defence to send Frankie Curley away but Frankie hit his shot a fraction too high and the ball went over the bar. Beckford combined with Harry Elmes and Ryan Ware to win a corner, which led to a second corner, which was cleared by Noel, but Elliot Styles remained on the ground. Although Elliot continued after a long stoppage, he went down again within a minute and was taken to hospital, with a suspected hernia. Andy Tomlinson came on, and as Aaron Gayle was also on, in place of Les Thompson, Hornchurch had no substitutes left to come on. So when a minute later Martin Tuohy was injured, Hornchurch were reduced to ten players.
Martin returned after ten minutes to limp around up front. Yet another loud appeal was rejected, and with time running out it began to look as though Concord would take the points, but they reckoned without the outstanding FRANKIE CURLEY. Joe Woolley pumped the ball deep up field, it was headed on, and then headed on again by Lewis Smith and Frankie, who had terrified the entire Concord team, ran on to glide the ball home.
A minute later it could have been two, when Aaron Gayle got on to the end of Woolley’s kick and flicked the ball narrowly wide. But Hornchurch were now unstoppable, and the winning soon followed. Spencer took a throw, Hunt headed on, Curley and Gayle both carried the move on, and the ball was played low into the middle for LEWIS SMITH to touch home, sending 90 percent of the crowd wild with delight, and the remaining ten percent running for the exit.
Andy Tomlinson stopped Beckford with a well timed tackle, and Frankie Curley did likewise a minute later, whilst Reiss Noel cleared a Beckford corner, before, in the sixth minute of stoppage time, Jon Hunt sent Lewis Smith through, but Holloway saved well.
Hornchurch deserved their win for their magnificent second half performance, whilst Concord could feel that they had done enough in the first half to have won. And a word of praise for Frankie Curley, who appeared to be the target for the worst of the play acting. If you upset Frankie, you pay the consequences. Never was a goal more deserved.