GRIMSBY TOWN 4 AFC HORNCHURCH 0
Hornchurch brought an estimated 200 following to Cleethorpes and their they made their presence felt in a crowd officially announced as 2416, although it looked to be considerably higher than that.
Hornchurch started somewhat nervously whereas the home side pressed right from the start, when Conor Townsend played a long ball out to Liam Hearn on the left wing, but the ball was wasted and Joe Anderson easily cleared.
Hornchurch soon settled down and a Frankie Curley run gave Michael Spencer an opening, but he could not get his shot in. Grimsby continued to move forward and looked particularly dangerous whenever Gary Silk moved along the wing, and he sent a string of good passes to his forwards. Jon Hunt gave Tommy Black an opening, but he was crowded out. A half chance fell to Michael Coulson but his shot was comfortably saved by Joe Woolley, at the cost of a corner. But it was from the corner, taken by Coulson, that SHAUN PEARSON moved in at the far post to head home.
Jon Hunt was then brought down by Townsend, and Hunt’s free kick was eventually scrambled away. A good cross by Coulson was headed powerfully by Scott Garner, and well held by Woolley, before Elliot Styles got in a telling tackle to stop Liam Hearn who had run on to a through ball. A good challenge on Frankie Artus by Reiss Noel was surprisingly penalised but justice was done when Coulson's shot from the resulting free kick was blocked by Elliot Styles.
Simon Glover then opened up a nervous home defence with a good pass to Michael Spencer, who gave Lewis Smith an opening but Lewis fired his shot wide of the far post. A Hearn run was stopped by Styles, but the ball was played back to Thanoj whose shot was saved by Woolley. But Grimsby went further ahead when Gary Silk, their player of the match, sent a long raking cross to Thanoj, and the ball was played in for ANTHONY ELDING to touch home.
Home keeper James McKeown saved well from Spencer who had run on to meet a Hunt free kick, and Thanoj escaped with a mere lecture – it was a certain yellow but not according to the somewhat generous referee - after a foul on Simon Glover, Hunt took the free kick and the ball was only part cleared by Shaun Pearson, and Spencer hammered the ball hard at goal, and his shot was well saved by McKeown.
Tommy Black, frequently subjected to loud jeers by the home crowd, was scythed down when clear through shortly before half time, but the referee ignored the loud claims for a penalty And when Townsend fouled Frankie Curley a minute later, Hunt's free kick was fumbled by McKeown, and the ball fell to Black whose curling shot was saved by the keeper who had quickly recovered.
The referee then ordered Rickie Hayles to take a free kick three times, but it was comfortably cleared, and in the final second of stoppage time Grimsby opened up the Hornchurch defence when Silk played a long ball in to ANTHONY ELDING to score.
Hornchurch were unfortunate to go in three down, and they almost pulled a goal back in the first minute of the second half when Hayles played an excellent pass to Michael Spencer who sped through a host of trailing legs before crashing his shot against the post. Hornchurch continued to press forward - Spencer found Black on the left but his low cross went begging with Lewis Smith not able to reach the ball as it rolled invitingly across the goal. Elding headed wide from Silk’s cross, before Curley played a ball into the path of Lewis Smith whose shot was well saved by McKeown, who turned the ball around the post for a corner.
And with Hornchurch attacking in force, Lewis Smith missed a good chance when he swerved around McKeown, only for the ball to be scrambled to safety by a defender. But the best chance then fell to Tommy Black, whose goal bound shot hit a defender, cannoned high into the air, and the ball soared crazily just inches wide of the post.
Aaron Gayle replaced Black and promptly won a corner, and Joe Anderson crossed into a packed goal mouth from Hunt’s short corner, and the ball was headed away by Pearson back to Hunt, whose return into the middle eluded everyone. Thanoj was finally booked, following a series of mistimed tackles, but the booking of Rickie Hayles shortly after seemed to be more a case of evening up the bookings.
The best goal of the match came when Hunt mistimed a pass and CONOR TOWNSEND moved along the left wing, cut inside and scored with an excellent low shot. Hornchurch continued to enjoy territorial advantage and a Hunt corner went begging. Andy Tomlinson came on for Hayles, and Les Thompson replaced Curley, and Hornchurch pressed forward seeking the goal they merited on their second half performance, which was more than equal to the ex-Football League team. A Hunt corner again went begging across goal, and a Spencer run was stopped by Silk at the expense of another free kick.
Pearson turned the ball out for another Hornchurch corner, and it was the same player who then headed out Hunt’s swerving corner kick. Hornchurch’s final opportunity fell to Aaron Gayle, but he hit his shot over the bar when well placed.
Unquestionably Grimsby deserved their win, but the four goal difference flattered then in the extreme. The main difference was in the finishing as the home side were sharper up front and always looked dangerous, whilst the home midfield was frequently in control and were quick to feed their forwards.