AFC Hornchurch 3 v 0 East Thurrock United
EAST Thurrock United boss John Coventry will be musing over the lack of firepower in this match which saw his side have several great chances but they were unable to convert them and in the end a lack of belief and conviction led to an overall collapse and the home side were able to control the game.
Hornchurch, on the other hand, will be looking to build on the growing strike partnership between George Purcell and Stefan Payne.
The absence through long term injury of Martin Tuohy might be a problem for the Urchins but in these two manager Jim McFarlane has a hard-working pair that will terrorise many a side.
There was almost a dramatic start to the match as, inside the first minute, Hornchurch pressed and in an attempt to clear the danger Tom Stephen thumped the ball away but it cannoned back off Derek Duncan and keeper Darren Behcet showed great reactions to go full stretch to tip the ball away off the bar. It fell for Payne but the keeper scrambled to his feet and made a second good stop at the foot of the post.
From then on it was the be Rocks who created the best chances and they looked more than the equal of their hosts. They won a number of corners, one of which saw an athletic punch to safety by Inigo Echepare.
Luke Wanadio then slotted the ball through for Leon McKenzie to chase and he won the race with Echepare and lifted it over the keeper, only for Ricky Hayles to run back and head off the line.
And when David Bryant sent McKenzie through the middle, Inigo had to race off his line to narrow the angle, forcing McKenzie to fire high over the bar. McKenzie had a further and even better chance soon afterwards, but
Inigo made himself big and McKenzie’s bid to squeeze his strike inside the near post rather than shooting across goal saw him blast into the side netting.
At the other end Phil Starkey directed his first time shot a fraction too high from Billy Coyne’s centre, and Behcet saved from Purcell.
East Thurrock had the ball in the net soon afterwards. A free kick out on the left by Stuart Thurgood picked out Lea Dawson who touched it into the net but he was rightly judged offside, having started his run too early.
The lack of success in front of goal seemed to drag the confidence out of the visitors and as the half drew towards its conclusion, Hornchurch began to dominate. Coyne sent Purcell away and Behcet touched the shot out for a corner. Duncan swung the ball over and Behcet punched clear.
The onslaught continued when Alex Bentley played through to Purcell, Behcet again saving well to prevent a goal. Bentley then crossed to Stefan Payne, who glanced his header narrowly wide of the far post, as the pressure mounted.
The decisive moment came four minutes before the interval when a long throw from Coyne ought to have been taken by Behcet but the keeper came for it, then changed his mind and as the ball bobbled around a hesitant defence Chris Bourne smashed it home.
It might even have been worse for Rocks just before the break when Payne crossed from the left and bounced across the face of goal, just eluding Purcell.
However, it wasn’t to be long into the second half before Hornchurch took a very firm grip on the game with two goals in quick succession.
Just ten minutes of increasing Urchins pressure had gone when Alex Bentley sent a long ball down the line, Payne drew the defence out of position, and Purcell ran in from the left to calmly slot the ball past Behcet.
Two minutes later there was a repeat performance; Frankie Curley started the move, Bourne played the ball out towards the left, and, with Payne again distracting the defence Purcell again ran in and showed great composure again as he slotted the ball home.
Rocks rallied briefly and McKenzie won a corner, which Wanadio sent over, and McKenzie headed goalwards, but over the bar.
Hornchurch almost added a fourth goal when Stefan Payne ran through to glide the ball into the net, but offside was given.
Carl Rook came on for Payne, and Joey May for Coyne, and Hornchurch continued to dominate, to the extent that the visitors picked up four second half bookings as over fussy ref Stuart Franklin decided he wanted to have a share of the spotlight.
Inigo had little to do in the final half hour, but was still called upon to make a good save from Simon Peddie in what was by now a rare East Thurrock breakaway.
In seven days the sides will meet again in the FA Cup. It will be same time, same place but Coventry knows he will have to find a way to lift his side, which is still very much a piece of work in process as he seeks to rebuild, while McFarlane knows his side have the power and strength and his focus will be on maintaining a level of performance, not lifting to a new one.