AFC HORNCHURCH 0 FARNBOROUGH 0
Hornchurch looked confident and assured against a team from a higher league, and therefore a higher standard of football. Farnborough’s full time professionals struggled to stay on terms in the first half, and Hornchurch dominated. But the match took a marked turn when Lewis Smith was controversially sent off for two yellow cards, both of which were given for seemingly innocuous challenges. Ironically the referee, ‘who has no discretion in such situations’, according to a prominent official, still managed to exercise considerable discretion when it came to similar instances in the second half, usually involving visiting players.
Programmes were all sold over thirty minutes before kick off, and the club shop was inundated with fathers all wanting to buy the new strip as a Christmas present for their children. Yet again, they were disappointed, as yet again – for the third year in succession – the suppliers let everyone down and failed to deliver. The sooner the club finds a new supplier, the better.
On a pleasantly mild afternoon, Hornchurch kicked towards the windmill end, and dominated play with their smooth passing. Jon Hunt dictated play and it was his early cross, which was headed away by Doug Bergqvist to Frankie Curley, who hit his shot narrowly wide of the post. Hornchurch pressed hard and a long Rickie Hayles throw was well fielded by keeper Tom Lovelock, who was again in action when he rose to hold a swerving free kick from Jon Hunt after Martin Tuohy had been fouled.
Farnborough almost took the lead when Ronnie Fletcher slipped as he made a clearance and the ball ran to Reece Connolly, who found himself with a clear run at goal. However Joe Woolley came off his line quickly and rose well to hold the attempted lob over his head. When Reiss Noel played a ball out to Tuohy, down went Martin yet again and Hunt’s free kick was this time pitched too low and was headed clear.
With a succession of free kicks all unpunished with a yellow card it was something of a surprise when an innocuous challenge by Lewis Smith received the first yellow card of the day. Hornchurch were awarded another free kick when Smith was fouled and it was Andy Tomlinson who sent the ball deep into the goalmouth where Lovelock punched clear, and Lewis Smith followed up with a weaving run before being crowded out.
Fletcher then combined with Hayles and Hunt to give Tuohy an opening on the right and his cross was deflected by Jordan Chandler for a corner which Hunt directed too low and the ball was cleared comfortably. Farnborough themselves won a corner when Tommy Murphy made a penetrating run and though his cross appeared to float out of play, a corner was awarded, but Curley headed away to safety.
Smith was then brought down in full flight and Tomlinson’s free kick eluded Lovelock but drifted inches wide of the far post. Curley fed a good ball out to Joe Anderson who played the ball forward for Tuohy to run on to but Lovelock was quickly off his line to clear. A Murphy free kick went out for a corner, which Fletcher headed away, and then shortly before half time, Lewis Smith was again yellow carded for a challenge the like of which had previously brought no action from the referee. So two yellows equalled a red, and Hornchurch were forced to play the entire second half a player short. It also means that Lewis will miss the match at Billericay, as will Andy Tomlinson.
Michael Spencer came on for Rickie Hayles at half time, and many wondered if Hornchurch could hold out against the higher class opposition. But although Farnborough had more of the play this half it was Hornchurch who again looked the more threatening. Tuohy headed over after a good exchange of passes between Anderson and Curley, and Lovelock was again quick to rush out to kick away when Tuohy was through. A Hunt pass to Anderson opened up the left wing and Anderson’s low cross into the middle went begging in front of goal.
Ronnie Fletcher conceded a corner from which Murphy fired high over the bar, and Woolley saved from Jordan Merriman. At the other end Lovelock collided heavily outside his area with Tuohy, but the free kick was, perhaps predictably, awarded to Farnborough.
Hornchurch, despite being a player short, began to once again press forward, with Anderson firing over from Hunt’s corner. A Hunt free kick was headed out, whilst a long penetrating ball from Michael Spencer sent Tuohy clear, but Jordan Chandler tackled to concede a corner. Hunt swerved the ball towards the far post and it was scrambled out to safety. But when Tomlinson missed his kick and the ball ran on to Connelly Farnborough were thwarted by Woolley who had spotted the danger and had moved out to intercept. Tommy Black came on for Tuohy and almost found a way through with his first touch of the ball, only for Lovelock to save. Elliot Styles replaced Hunt, and it was Elliot who in the final minute of stoppage time who almost got onto a Tomlinson free kick. The replay will be on Wednesday (not Tuesday).