COLCHESTER UNITED 4 AFC HORNCHURCH 1
The Hornchurch team arrived late, due to a multi vehicle accident which closed a section of the A12. Heavy rain and spray made for a most unpleasant journey to Cuckoo Farm, and the handful of visiting supporters who did manage to get there in time for the delayed kick off were in a state of shock when they saw the prices of food and drink - £2 for a cardboard cup of tea – many signalled with two fingers what they thought of this. A steward said it was all due to a big contract. Some thought he said con trick.On the plus side, Colchester did not charge for parking, which was a lot better than the £5 they usually charge.
The 7.30 kick off was delayed ten minutes, and the Hornchurch team had to go straight onto the pitch, with no opportunity to warm up before the start. it was very much an experimental Hornchurch side, which had several first team regulars missing, but Elliot Styles was given a run out after injury. The pitch was in immaculate condition, and the floodlights a credit to any club. Hornchurch, despite the lack of pre-match preparation, started confidently. Ronnie Fletcher conceded an early corner, but Joe Woolley had no trouble in dealing with the slippery ball on the rain affected surface.
And when Les Thompson sent Tommy Black clear, a goal looked possible, but the flag went up for offside. With Hornchurch beginning to settle, they fell behind to a freak goal, when a short corner was played into the goalmouth and Les Thompson sliced his clearance. The ball curled up and fell in front of a surprised and delighted BRADLEY HAMILTON, who touched it over the line.
Hornchurch supporters were now beginning to arrive and formed the bulk of the crowd, with only a mere handful of home followers in evidence. A Lloyd James free kick was well saved by Woolley, who tipped the shot over the bar, and the corner was floated over to James, who this time was tackled by Ronnie Fletcher. At the other end, a Tambeson Eyong run gave Michael Spencer an opening and he hammered in a shot which was saved by Mark Cousins, ably assisted by the cross bar, as the ball cannoned back out.
Frankie Curley, dominant in midfield, sent a good pass out to Spencer, but the cross was headed clear. Woolley then saved from Craig Arnott, who had replaced Jason Ricciuti who had limped off after a collision with Ronnie Fletcher – Ricciuti, who had played very well, is an Australian triallist, who was initially named as substitute, but he actually started the match in place of Jordan Sanderson, in what was a very late team amendment.
Aaron Gayle sent a good pass to Thompson, who opened up the defence with a rapid run along the wing but his cross was headed clear to safety. Colchester went further ahead when a shot from Michael Rose was blocked by Styles, only for the ball to run back out to KARL DUGUID, whose first time shot from long range crashed into the net.
Tommy Black was harshly yellow carded for an innocuous tackle, but this was nothing compared to the absolutely disgraceful decision to send Andy Tomlinson off, for a perfectly legitimate and harmless challenge on Lloyd James. This farcical decision effectively won the game for the home side. Hornchurch were incensed by this ridiculous decision, and stormed forward. Gayle fired wide and right on half time, Cousins made an excellent save from Tommy Black. The referee left the field to a storm of jeers and boos from the away following.
It looked bleak for Hornchurch, and when Steven Gillespie saw his shot touched onto the bar early in the second half, it began to look as though the home side would run riot. But on came Reiss Noel to stem the attacks, and Jon Hunt then appeared, followed soon after by Sam Bantick, who came on for his debut appearance.
And Jon Hunt immediately took complete control, and Hornchurch, a player short thanks to the earlier farcical decision, threatened to overwhelm the now panic stricken home side. With Anderson and Black in total command on the flanks, and Thompson creating havoc whenever he came forward on the right, Colchester had no alternative but to defend in depth. A Hunt – Black move ended when Hunt fired the ball inches over the bar, and a Thompson run ended with the ball being scrambled away for a corner. Then it was Hunt to Spencer, and Michael’s cross went begging in front of goal. Hunt, Spencer and Black all went close and then JON HUNT crashed in an unstoppable shot from ten yards outside the area, to score what many considered to be the best ever goal at Cuckoo Farm.
Anderson to Spencer, whose shot was saved well, and Sam Bantick dispossessed a defender to hit in a hard shot which cannoned back off a defender. It was however inevitable that the one player deficit would have its effect and the home side were quick to come out of defence, and Woolley made two fine saves before John White combined with Steven Gillespie to give TOM EASTMAN an opening, and he made no mistake with a well placed header. And with four minutes to go, STEVEN GILLESPIE added the fourth with a well struck shot from long range. Colchester won one further corner but were content to defend and play out the few remaining minutes.