HASTINGS UNITED 1 AFC HORNCHURCH 3
With Elliot Styles, Michael Spencer and Dave McSweeney all out through injury, Lewis Smith played despite having his shoulder strapped up, and Ronnie Fletcher and Jon Hunt came into the starting line up. Hornchurch could only name four substitutes.
The sloping pitch was very slippery, which led to a number of mistakes as players struggled to keep their footing, and on a bright and sunny day Hornchurch kicked up the slope in the first half. Reiss Noel came to the rescue early on when he tackled Jordan Woolley who had cut inside from the left, and Simon Glover opened up the home defence with a good pass to Les Thompson, who raced down the right before crossing to Lewis Smith in the middle. Lewis weaved through but eventually hit his shot narrowly wide of the post. Joe Anderson intercepted a long pass to glide the ball out to Martin Tuohy, whose resulting cross was neatly cut out by Scott Manning.
Ronnie Fletcher twice made good tackles to thwart the home forwards, before Woolley won a free kick. Jack Dixon played the ball hard towards goal and Joe Woolley did well to keep it out, with Simon Glover completing the clearance. Jon Hunt almost created an opening for Tuohy but home keeper Lloyd Anderson rose well to clutch the ball.
By now Hornchurch were well in command and they took the lead after a good build up involving Anderson, Smith and Frankie Curley, who provided the opening for MARTIN TUOHY to place the ball firmly into the net. And less than a minute later Anderson played the ball to Tuohy whose perfectly timed centre was nodded home by LEWIS SMITH.
It could easily have been three inside another minute when Glover and Curley combined to set Les Thompson up, but his shot drifted inches wide of the post. Then it was Hunt to Anderson, who was fouled by Kenny Pogue, who was helping out his over-stressed defence. Hunt took the free kick and the ball looked to be going into the net until Ross Sutton headed out from almost under the bar.
Hastings had a chance to pull a goal back when Woolley’s mishit clearance was played out to Woodley whose cross ground Pogue, but Pogue put his shot high over the bar and out of the ground. Fletcher conceded a corner shortly afterwards, and Woolley did well to turn Pogue’s shot out for another corner. Lee Carey sent the ball over a second time and Woolley rose well under pressure to catch the ball.
Hornchurch were denied a third goal in controversial circumstances. Rickie Hayles intercepted the ball on the right and sent Thompson away. Thompson’s slid the ball neatly between two defenders for Lewis Smith who ran on to score, only for the goal to be disallowed for what must have been a very marginal offside decision.
The second half was more even, and the home side came more into the game as an attacking force. Woolley looked dangerous, but when he raced in from the left, he put his shot high over the bar and into the road. Tuohy gave Lewis Smith a good opening with a first time pass but Lewis moved in from the left and hit his shot wide, whilst a Thompson centre found Tuohy whose shot was tipped over the bar by Lloyd Anderson. Hunt floated the ball over and Lloyd Anderson did well to punch the ball away as it swerved towards the goal.
Woolley saved a long range shot from Jamie Crellin, and at the other end Lewis Smith touched the ball back to Joe Anderson whose first time shot went over the bar. Tuohy again put Smith clear but Lloyd Anderson saved with his feet to keep the ball out. Hornchurch were denied what the massed following behind the goal though was a clear cut penalty when Lewis Smith’s cross was handled, and then play was halted for a while when the referee handed out a yellow card to Jordan Woodley. Rest period over, Hornchurch took the free kick and the ball went out to JON HUNT on the left side, and he calmly lobbed the ball over the keeper and into the net
Then Hastings called a Time Out – sort of – when the linesman indicated to the referee that the Hastings management team wanted to engage in some animated discussions. One red and one yellow card later, it was a somewhat depleted home bench, to the obvious amusement of the away following.
Time for a few changes – on came Aaron Gayle, Tambeson Eyong, and the ever popular Andy Tomlinson. Woolley held a well flighted corner from Lee Carey, before Andy Tomlinson fired a shot narrowly past the post at the other end. With five minutes left, plus arguing time, ZAC ATTWOOD hit home an unstoppable free kick, and suddenly it was a different Hastings, swarming forward en masse. Their best chance fell to Zac Attwood whose hard shot was turned out by Joe Anderson for a corner. Woolley then dealt with another corner, and two more shots sailed out the ground. There was just time for another yellow card for a Hastings player, before the final whistle signaled three more points for the Purple People Eaters.