SUTTON UNITED – 1 [Martin 14.]
HORNCHURCH – 2 [Jackson 4. Elam 59.]
Four games, no wins and some rather poor footy has hardly marked down the start of the 2004-2005 season as one that will live long in the memory.
When you’re struggling for points and a bit of form, having a bunch of very expensively assembled full-timers roll into town looking to get their own campaign into gear is the last thing you need!
Understandably, pessimism is the order of the day with most of us hoping for a good performance, but expecting a sound defeat at the hands of the Urchins. I find all the crew present as usual in the pub and trying to dull the senses in preperation of the game ahead.
For the fifth consecutive game, JR is once again forced to make changes to his starting line up. With Bradley Thomas suspended today follwing the ridiculous red card on the opening day. His place in a defence already lacking somewhat in height goes to Stuart Booth. On the bench is another new signing, striker Loui Fazakerley.
Another striker?? Flippin’ hell, we’ll be able to field a side of attackers soon at this rate!
Our fears of a good tonking are surfacing after just a few minutes of play. Four minutes gone and a ball from left to right finds Jackson in a bit too much space for our liking at the back post. He pulls his shot back across Wilson and we’re a goal down already.
A few minutes later we’re again opened up down the right. A low ball in is turned on goal and Wilson makes a great reaction block. The ball breaks loose, but thankfully Gonsalves is on hand to prod it away for a corner before the rebound can be put away.
But despite this poor opening we start to slowly edge into proceedings and shortly after a ball over the Horchurch defence sends Joff clear. He knocks the ball over the ‘keeper on the edge of the boxc but has his attempted ball back across goal blocked for a corner. Gray puts it into the box and Gonsalves arrives only to power his header just wide of the post from inside the 6yard box.
It’s a warning of things to come and we start to match our opponents that little bit better. This pays off and on 13 minutes, a ball to the right hand side finds Gray and he heads the ball back across goal. A defender tries to clear but is hassled off the ball by Akuamouah who slips it back through the defence for Andrew Martin to run onto. With only the ‘keeper to beat, Taff keeps his cool and slots into the bottom far corner.
Bloody hell! We’re in a game and it’s a forward who’s scored!
The 2 sides now enjoy a spell of possession but very little in the way of serious chances. The visitors it seems are suffering from a similar problem to us. So many new faces still trying to get to know each other and gel as a team.
Around the half hour mark, we’re shaken from our ‘1-1 with the rich blokes’ complacency and reminded of our frailty at the back. The U’s defence has trouble clearing it’s lines and a pass is clipped out to the left. The attacker steps inside and cracks a shot beyond Wilson and pings off the far post. Matt Gray doing the tidying up.
Immediately after though, we suffer the blow of losing Vansittart with a back injury. New boy Loui Fazakerley coming on to replace him. It’s a shame as Joff had been playing well and for the first time his partnership with Taff was looking good.
Loui has a chance to make a name for himself soon after coming on with 34 minutes played. Martin battles past a couple of defenders on the left and with a touch of fortune comes out with the ball. His cross to the near post is headed on and Peter Fear arrives at the back corner of the box to lash a super volley on target, but the ‘keeper makes an equally good save. Fazakerley reacts first to the rebound, but can’t keep his effort down from around 8 yards out and it zips just over the bar.
The half ends without too much more incident and we wander round to the Shoebox feeling a little happier than in recent weeks. But we’re hoping it’s not just another of those 45 minute wonders we’ve produced lately.
Unfortunately, it proves to be so. The Urchins obviously having had a bollocking at the break and been reminded of just what they’re earning, come out for the second half and step up that little bit. They don’t run away with it as such, but have masses of possession and the U’s beleagured defence struggles to get the ball into opposition territory.
Despite controlling swathes of the half, the first real chance comes for the visitors around the hour mark. A pass is pushed through on an overlap down the right. A low ball into the box results in a first time shot that is charged down by Corbett. The rebound is then fired on goal with Wilson making a good block on his goal line. Corbett then blocks an effort from Elam, who has only been on the park a minute or two, and as he attempts to clear, the ball strikes Elam in the face and loops over a partially grounded Wilson and into the net.
With the lead restored, the visitors go up another gear and go looking for a killer goal. But again despite dominating possession, they have to wait until the 75th minute for their next opportunity. A pass to the left corner of the 18 yard box is nodded down and Elam looks certain to score, but his low shot is just fingertipped wide by a sprawling Wilson at the expense of a corner.
JR introduces Forrester & the returning Wilkins up front to try & boost our attacking options and on 81 minutes we manage to win a rare corner. Gray whips it in and it’s headed out to the edge of the box where Fear tries his luck again on the volley, but the ball deflects off a defender and loops over the Urchins goal.
This sets up a frantic last 10 minutes as the Urchins respond quickly. Again the defence is pulled around and another ball down the right is pulled across goal from the byeline. Wilson can’t stop it, but thankfully Gonsalves is backing his man up and clears the ball off the line. A couple of minutes later and a corner from the right results in a header at the near post that is guided narrowly over our crossbar.
But, in injury time, we get another example of the sort of luck we’re gettnig so far this season.
The ref awards a drop ball on the left corner of the Hornchurch 18 yard box. Fear contests it and the ball squirts loose into the box. Watkins chases and despite it looking like the ‘keeper should claim easily, the young striker somehow gets there first and loops the ball high into the air & towards goal. It drops and clips off the face of the bar, bouncing behind Forrester. But it runs to Matt Gray and he smashes a shot in from a tight angle that the ‘keeper manages to block and then gather at the second attempt. Rats.
Sadly it’s the last action of the contest and we’re once again left without any reward for our efforts. Although on the bright side, the performance was more encouraging.
We alight to the bar to see if we can track down and corner the visitors infamous football forum pest ‘Uncle Urchin’. Unfortunately for him, we succeed and have a nice chat with some of the Hornchurch lads.
Then it’s off to the Hood for some more beers and to watch Miss Holmes romp the 1500m and the 4×100 sprinters turn over the Yanks.
MAN OF THE MATCH – Eddie Akuamouah. All action performance. Ran himself silly
ENTERTAINMENT – 7. Better. Hornchurch look a good side and we matched them fairly well
TEAM : Wilson, Gray, Corbett, Booth, Gonsalves, Akuamouah, Fear, Honey, Brake, Vansittart, Martin SUBS : Fazakerley, Watkins, Olusesi, Forrester
THE REFEREE’S……..the best so far, but thats not saying much! Handled the game fairly well, but the decent nature of the game certainly helped.