DOVER 2 HORNCHURCH 1
Tucked away in the tiny suburb of River is a massive hill, at the top of which is Dover football ground, and at the bottom of which is Dover rugby club and car park. Walk up 59 steps, in four flights and you arrive at the entrance. Only problem is, it is the old entrance, and is no longer used. Walk back down again, then walk for miles up a long steep slope and you arrive at Dover FC. Another surprise, as you enter the ground, it is above you, so you walk up another slope and you are immediately hit by a 50 mph gale which threatens to blow you right back again down the hill. No Kel, no Max, no Annie, and on the field, no Ludo (injured), no Chris Stowe (injured), no Darren Behcet (injured), no Dave Sadler, no Elliot (both suspended after the Ashford farce), Simon not fully fit. In January the match was called off – Dover had a lot of injuries and the pitch was not playable. Tonight, HFC had the injuries, but the pitch was playable, if you consider playing into a 50 mph gale is playable.
The crowd looked about 600 max but was announced as 907, the other 307 having entered the ground but been blown out to sea by the gale.
Dover started well, when a long ball down the wing reached Browning, who squared it into the middle to Hughes, who shot was blocked by Purdie, to the background screams for hand ball and a penalty. When it comes to intimidating the referee, the Dover crowd were well aware of how to do it, as any tackle or clearance within a yard of the penalty area brought howls of rage, and the inevitable penalty appeal.
Jason Willis was soon in action, dealing well with a first time shot from Moore, the ball twisting and turning in the gale. With Dover swarming forward, and Urchins struggling in the gale, a free kick was awarded 30 yards out, and up stepped Browning to crash the ball through the wall, only to find Jason Willis all ready and waiting, parrying the ball and then diving to save in spectacular fashion as Bodkin homed in. Back came Dover, and a Purdie tackle led to another pathetic penalty appeal, but Collin carried on and Willis made another magnificent save to keep the ball out.
Urchins began to cope better with the conditions, and chose to ignore the screaming masses behind the goal, and when Curley dispossessed Hessenthaler he slipped the ball through to Ross Wall, who ran forward and centred, with Schulz doing well to clear from Green. Michael Spencer was having a difficult time against the jinking runs of Hughes, who was given a lot of room out on the right, but he won the ball and found Mark Janney, who played it forward for Dean Green, but keeper Preston Edwards just won the race to grab the ball, dangerously close to the edge of the area.
As Urchins began to come forward more, so Andy Tomlinson played a good pass out to Mark Goodfellow who came through from the back, and his cross was headed away by the confident Schulz who looked dominant in defence. Dover won the first corner of the match when a long ball deflected out, and Hessenthaler floated the ball over, and Moore’s shot cannoned out off the packed defence. Almost on half time, Hughes sped down the wing, touched back to Ball, and his low centre found Bodkin, whose first time curling shot was stopped by Willis, who then dived backwards to save on the line as the crowd started howling for a goal. The howls of the home crowd blended perfectly with the howls of the gale.
At half time, a local land developer expressed interest in acquiring the ground – not for housing, but for a wind farm. But he was not allowed into the board room as they have a ‘dress policy’, whatever that means. (It means you can go in before the match, and at the end, but not at half time – not that Sir Gary cared, as he actually had a tie on.). The rain came down in torrents, and the entire ground threatened to take off and end up in the north sea. The pitch tilted ten degrees and the new boardroom threatened to take off.
The wind changed around at half time, which helped no one, and the two flags at the entrance were at times blowing in different directions, although only about thirty yards apart. Urchins won a free kick in the first minute and Janney forced a good save from Edwards. Curley combined well with Green to give Spencer a shooting chance, and Edwards again saved the ball as it came over. But then disaster struck, for the ball was booted upfield, Hughes made ground and sent a pass across to SAMMY MOORE, who tried a hopeful shot about ten yards outside the area. Jason Willis was right in line to save, and then the win assisted ball hit a defender, looped high into the air, dipped, hit the underside of the bar, and dropped into the net.
Urchins contained Dover comfortably as the gale grew in intensity, now accompanied by driving rain, and Simon Parker came on for Frank Curley, playing up front with Ross Wall, and allowing Dean Green to drop back. Dover pressed forward again, and Hessenthaler played a short corner back to Rogers who crossed, but McFarlane cleared to Parker, only for the ball to be returned upfield and another corner resulted as it took a touch from a defender. Over came the corner, Purdie played it away, Hughes went down in spectacular fashion, and once again the banshee appeals from the crowd (not from the players) for a penalty were ignored – by now we were completely immune to them anyway.
And Hornchurch, with their own supporters roaring them on, now began to dominate.
Billy Coyne came up to take a long throw, into the gale, but he still propelled the ball into the middle, and it ran out to Andy Tomlinson in the inside left position. Andy crashed the ball goalwards, and it cannoned back off the inside of the post. Simon got there, and Edwards saved on the line – Urchins supporters behind the goal called loudly for a goal as the ball appeared to have crossed the line, a massive scramble ensued, the ball came back out, and Kris hit is back, and Olly Schulz made a magnificent save to palm the ball away – unfortunately he was centre half and not in goal – and still play continued and the ball was again cleared off post and line, and then the whistle went – we thought it was for a goal, but the referee had awarded a penalty. What is the correct decision when a player deliberately handles to prevent a goal? Red card – tell that to the referee, who, after a very long period of deliberation, with several home players swarming all around him, weakly waved a yellow card. The real keeper was Preston Edwards, and he continued to protest, and was also shown a yellow card – surely this too should have been a red card. MARK JANNEY took a very long run up, he had no choice with the gale and the rain, and hammered the ball home from the penalty. Such was the noise that people in Folkestone thought it was another earthquake, and the after effects rolled along the north downs, into the Thames and caused the floodlights to go out at Canvey, who were losing four nil at the time.
Dover came back but Willis saved well and promptly punted the ball up to Parker who sent it out to Kris Lee on the left, and Kris saw his shot hit Rogers and go out for a corner. Tomlinson took the kick but Schulz, who should not have been on the pitch, cleared. The ball was played out to Hughes. McFarlane headed away but the ball was played back to ALAN POUTON, who hit his shot low and hard past the packed defence and into the net. Purdie then conceded a free kick with a mistimed tackle right on the edge of the area, and was booked. Pouton took the free kick and hammered the ball into the wall. At the other end Lee found Parker whose overhead kick was well saved by Edwards – and why was he still on the pitch? – and a Janney run saw the ball released to Parker, who again went close. Tomlinson sent another corner over with the inevitable clearance by Schulz, and at the other end, Collin fired over from a corner. Jamie Salmon came on to give a noticeable boost to midfield, and Urchins pressed forward, but only two minutes were added on, during which Billy Coyne’s free kick found Spencer who hit his shot just over the bar.
No points, but a good performance is extreme conditions. Nineteen year old Jason Willis was outstanding, and this was the first time he had played with a totally hostile crowd behind his goal.