TOOTING & MITCHAM UNITED 1 HORNCHURCH 2
Pre-match talk was centred around the horrendous traffic jams which caused some visiting supporters to miss the match, and others were more concerned with the pathetic and disgraceful coverage given to Hornchurch in the local paper. And all this detracted from the fact that today’s match appeared to be played on a beach, the pitch being liberally covered with sand, and small dust clouds came up when anyone ran for the ball.
For those who did manage to battle through the traffic, there was more traffic at Tooting’s perhaps aptly named New Sandy Lane – of the one-way variety, as Hornchurch stormed forward in waves, and, especially in the second half, totally overwhelmed the home side. Such was Hornchurch’s dominance that there were three penalty appeals turned down, twice the ball cannoned back off the bar, and home keeper Darren Behcet made several excellent – and one or two somewhat fortunate – saves.
But first, the almost inevitable colour clash – Hornchurch in blue and white stripes, and the home side in black and white stripes – this resulted in numerous misplaced passes in the first half, and at times it appeared that Ronnie Fletcher was still playing for Hornchurch, judging from the number of Urchin passes that came his way.
Hornchurch could have taken a first minute lead, when Joe Anderson’s high cross was headed out for a corner by Elliott Cox. Lewis Smith played the corner short to Michael Spencer who swung the ball over, only for Darren Behcet to make a good save.
On a bumpy pitch, and playing in the face of the strong downfield wind, Hornchurch temporarily allowed the home side to come into the match as an attacking force, and when Lewis Smith conceded a free kick, Reiss Noel had to head away for a corner, and then Rickie Hayles headed the corner to safety.
Ryan James almost created an opening but was tackled by James Love, who conceded another corner, which was taken by James and comfortably cleared by Noel.
Love then played an impressive combination pass with Simon Glover, to win a corner, thanks to a last ditch interception by Matt Drage. Spencer’s corner was hit long and cleared, but back came the ball to Love, who slotted it through the middle for Lewis Smith to chase. Behcet came out of goal, kicked wildly, and the ball rebounded off Smith and narrowly wide of the post.
Leon McKenzie to Frankie Curley, who went down heavily under Ryan James’ mistimed tackle. Spencer took the free kick and Behcet saved well. James escaped with a lengthy finger wagging session.
The pressure was now intense, but it was eased when Elliott Cox lofted the ball out to the left where James hit a first time volley – narrowly missing a passing heron.
When Martin Tuohy combined with Spencer to send Smith away, it was Behcet who came to the rescue, rushing out of goal to kick clear. And Behcet was again in action, when Joe Woolley’s long kick was flicked forward by McKenzie to Martin Tuohy.
Two penalty appeals were rejected in quick succession, firstly Tuohy and then Smith being sent crashing down, on both occasions the free kick being given on the edge of the area.
Behcet again saved from Tuohy who had run on to McKenzie’s pass, whilst Ryan James was booked for another badly timed tackle, this time on Tuohy, with Spencer’s free kick coming back off the wall.
From another free kick, Lewis Smith outjumped everyone – including Behcet, and his header hit the ground, rose alarmingly, hit the bar and was scrambled to safety, for a corner. Spencer took the corner, and the ball swerved over, hit the bar and was again scrambled clear.
In the last few seconds of the half Smith was tripped in full flight, and Anderson’s vicious free kick cannoned back off the wall.
The second half was an almost non stop bombardment of the home goal. Lewis Smith started proceedings with a fine run which ended with a shot which skimmed the post.
Carl Rook came on for McKenzie, but the Hornchurch bench was infuriated that it took four attempts to attract the attention of the referee, despite the linesman doing an excellent impression of semaphore with his flag.
Tooting briefly rallied and won a corner, which was headed away by Hayles, and then came the long siege. Anderson’s free kick found Tuohy whose header was deflected for a corner. Lewis Smith sent the ball over and Hayles headed over.
An incredible Anderson run ended with a vicious shot which Behcet somehow kept out, and as the ball bounced high and back towards the goal, it was scrambled out for a corner. Smith sent the ball over and it was hacked away. Back it came and another corner resulted. Spencer took the kick this time but the strong wind curled the ball out of play.
Fola Orilonishe came on for Spencer, and it was Fola to Tuohy, and yet again the ball was scrambled off the line. A Love cross went for a corner, and Anderson swerved the ball over, for Behcet to punch away.
Max arrived, for the final twenty minutes, just in time to see Carl Rook open up the home defence with an immaculate pass to Tuohy. As we all know Martin rarely misses when given an open shot on the edge of the area, but the ball bobbled, and Tuohy hit his shot high over the bar out of the ground.
Tooting broke away and won a corner. This was cleared easily – or so it appeared. But the ball was played back along the right to Jerome Walker who raced away on the right and turned the ball into the goalmouth where a delighted CONNOR FRENCH prodded it home, to the immense surprise and equal delight of the handful of home supporters clustered behind the goal.
This signalled the appearance of Jon Hunt, who replaced James Love, and the scene was now set for the siege of the Alamo. And it started immediately, when Hunt swung a corner over, and the hall was cleared off the line.
With Hornchurch committed to all out attack, the home side almost grabbed a second when French took advantage of Anderson storming upfield to race down the wing and cross, and Joe Woolley dived to make a point blank save.
Back came the ball and another Hunt corner was scrambled away, and a massive appeal of hand ball was rejected.
Would Hornchurch ever be able to score? Yes, it was inevitable, and it started when Joe Anderson gained possession inside his own half and played a long ball down the left wing for MARTIN TUOHY, who carried on, rounded Jordan Binns, and was then faced with three defenders, but still neatly chipped the ball into the net.
Hornchurch raced back to the centre – no time for celebrations – and the home side reeled under a tidal wave of blue and white. The goal just had to come and when Smith chased a long ball down the middle, he was chopped down – penalty – at last – and MARTIN TUOHY calmly waited for the home play acting to subside and neatly slotted the ball home, and quickly disappeared under a mass of blue and white.
Another corner was scrambled away, and Tooting had nothing left to offer, and after five minutes of stoppage time , during which Hornchurch were happy to hold on to the ball, the three points were safely locked away.