WINGATE & FINCHLEY 1 AFC HORNCHURCH 2
Yet again, in a match where there was not one single bad tackle, we had another card-fest, with nine bookings, in a season where yellow and red cards are getting out of hand and ruining matches.
In very difficult conditions, with a strong wind sweeping down and across the pitch, Hornchurch made an impressive start, and when a Rickie Hayles throw was touched on by Simon Glover to Lewis Smith, Lewis made ground and his cross was diverted out by Ola Williams for a corner. Jon Hunt sent the ball swerving into the goalmouth, where ex-Hornchurch keeper Bobby Smith punched clear under pressure from Frankie Curley. The best the home side could manage was a free kick by Ola Williams which sailed into the waiting arms of Joe Woolley.
With Hornchurch pressing forward, they took the lead when Joe Anderson’s pass found Lewis Smith, and his cross was diverted for a corner. Hunt played the corner short to Anderson, and then crossed the return pass, which was handled by Williams, who was very harshly booked – he would not have been booked for a similar incident had it been outside the area. MARTIN TUOHY took the penalty and sent Bobby Smith the wrong way.
The home side created some confusion in the Hornchurch defence when Reiss Noel conceded a corner. Ross Parmenter sent over the corner, and almost Anderson headed out, the ball fell to Leon Smith, who headed over the bar. Curley and Anderson then combined with Elliot Styles, to win two corners in succession, both sent over by Jon Hunt and eventually cleared by Bobby Smith, who quickly punted the ball down the field, and Woolley had to race out of goal to kick clear as Leon Smith homed in at speed.
A good move involving Curley and Michael Spencer ended in another corner, which in turn led to another. Hunt sent the ball over and then took a return pass and played the ball deep and into the path of Tuohy, who ran on, flicked the ball over Bobby Smith, and then could only watch as it sailed agonizingly onto the roof of the net. At the other end, Murat Karagul curled the ball in from the left and Reiss Noel did well to avert the danger.
Smith combined with Anderson and sent Tuohy clear on the left. Martin cut inside and went past two defenders, before firing the ball past Bobby Smith but inches wide of the far post.
With the wind playing havoc to anything resembling accurate passing, the home side leveled when a short throw, close to the goal line, ended in a somewhat carelessly conceded corner. Parmenter took the kick, and the wind curled the ball deep into the goalmouth where a very obviously delighted MARC WEATHERSTONE headed home. Close to half time Matthew Mitchell went speeding through from the half way line but was stopped by a Spencer tackle, which resulted – Spencer for the tackle, and Lewis Smith for reasons unknown – and Mitchell fired the free kick high and over the bar, into the direction of the nearby North Circular Road.
The wind dropped during the interval, and it was the home side who made the first opportunity, when Leon Smith cut inside of Anderson and fired over a low cross, which Woolley dived full length to hold. But it was Hornchurch who took the lead when Hornchurch took full advantage of a poorly taken free kick by the home side. The ball was intercepted by Rickie Hayles, who touched forward to Michael Spencer, close to the half way line, thence quickly on to LEWIS SMITH who made ground on the right, turned inside, and as Bobby Smith rushed out to narrow the angle, Lewis neatly glided the ball into the net.
Lewis Smith again got into the action when he sent an excellent pass to Martin Tuohy, but his shot was well saved by Bobby Smith. The ball rebounded to Jon Hunt, and it was Bobby Smith again who saved. The ball rebounded back to Tuohy, and for the third time in a matter of seconds, it was the home keeper who saved a certain goal, rushing off his line to force Tuohy to place his shot just inches over the bar.
Rickie Hayles almost made the game safe for Hornchurch with a magnificent solo run from inside his own half, but once again it was Bobby Smith who kept the home side in the game, with another brilliant save. A Hunt corner was cleared, and another Hunt corner reached Lewis Smith who fired narrowly over. Les Thompson came on to replace Hunt, whilst Andy Tomlinson returned from suspension to replace Simon Glover.
The home side forced the pace, and won two corners in a row, and from the second of these Leon Smith’s first time drive went over Woolley but bounced of the top of the crossbar.
Hornchurch elected to defend the remaining few minutes, but were rarely under pressure. David Laird came on for the home side and managed to get himself booked seconds later as the card-fest continued. But the most farcical yellow of all occurred in the final minute of stoppage time when Joe Woolley gathered the ball on the edge of the area, and collided with a home player in the process. Out came the over-worked yellow, and a free kick was awarded – ridiculous and potentially worth two points – but the free kick was headed away by Reiss Noel and the three points were secured.