AFC Hornchurch 1 Tilbury 1
Saturday 24th February
Report by Scott Lanza
There was a subdued feeling around Hornchurch Stadium on Saturday, as long serving manager Jim McFarlane had a stroke on Monday and is currently recovering in hospital. The Urchins lead the table and are aiming for a return to the Premier Division but the absence of McFarlane was noticeable and even though Colin McBride gave constant instructions from the dug-out, his players were at times lack lustre. Tilbury went into the game on the back of an unbeaten February but apart from a flurry towards the end of the game never really got going themselves. It meant that the match rarely got warm enough to keep the freezing spectators on t
The Urchins did attack Tilbury right from the off but Tom Anderson twice put in good tackles to end the forward move, while Sam Mott had some early work to do as he had to claim a Ross Gleed free kick whilst under pressure from Adam Vyse. Tilbury’s cause wasn’t helped when Kurt Smith injured himself and had to be replaced after only ten minutes. And soon afterwards Clarke Bogard had to come and claim a deep cross from Jay Porter. But the early stages proved to be tentative as both teams cancelled each other out meaning there was little for the front men to feed on.
In the 17th minute Christian Assombalonga managed to slip inside his marker and passed to George Purcell, but the leading Hornchurch scorer hashed his effort and it sailed high and wide of the target. Assombalonga then found himself through on goal moments later but the Dockers were saved by some great defending by Simon Peddie, who put in a great tackle just as Assombalonga was about to shoot. The Dockers were electing to play balls over the top of the Urchins defence and Vyse and Aromolaran both picked up the odd ball to try and work with. However it wasn’t until the 22nd minute when they had their first real effort, when a Jack Carlile free kick was met by the head of Vyse, that was narrowly wide.
Harry Norman hooked away an Olumide Oluwatimilehin cross and the resulting Hornchurch corner was weak, which allowed Kris Newby to start a Tilbury counter-attack. However it was to fizzle out as Aromolaran received the ball on the right of the penalty box but had no options as he was swamped out by the Urchins defence. Purcell then had a similar issue in Hornchurch’s next attack, when he found some space to send over a cross but Tilbury had plenty of bodies in their box and the ball that came over was blocked and then cleared.
With both defences being tight meant clear cut chances remained at a premium. The Urchins did have the best chance of the game thus far though when Jamie Hirsit struck a long range free kick that whistle past Bogard’s left-hand post. Tilbury then had a chance when Vyse headed a corner to Aromolan who attempted an overhead kick that was only inches wide. It would have been a great goal had it gone in; but it also wouldn’t have counted as the referee had seen an infringement when the Tilbury corner ball was making its way into the Urchins danger zone.
Bogard had to show bravery when he cut out a through ball that Assombalonga almost connected with. And the Urchins maybe should have done better with an opportunity that came their way in the 40th minute. Purcell threaded a nice ball through to Theo Fairweather-Johnson, but the resulting shot was skewed well wide. The Dockers had a go themselves two minutes later when Siju Odelesi delivered a deep cross to Vyse, but he was at too acute an angle to get a shot on target.
But with half-time approaching, the Urchins then broke the deadlock with a well worked goal. Nathan Cooper played the ball out of midfield, laid off Purcell, who sent over an inch perfect cross to Assombalonga which he fired home from close range.
The temperature around the ground did not pick up as the second half started but Tilbury at least tried to apply some early heat to proceedings on the pitch. Aromolaran charged into the Urchins box with Cooper ending the run by conceding a corner. The resulting corner bobbed around the Urchins box until Anderson let fly and rattled the Urchins cross bar. Newby fired a Tilbury free kick high over the bar and then Purcell directed a shot straight at Bogard. After that little flurry the game then returned to the same deadlock that was seen in the first half and it wasn’t until the 61st minute until there was another effort on goal. On that occasion it was Hornchurch on the front foot as Assombalonga cut inside, picked out Purcell, but the Urchins talisman miscued and fired his effort horribly wide.
Mott had little to do until the 63rd minute when he was rushing out of his box to clear a Tilbury through ball. But four minutes later he was picking the ball out of the net after his defence had failed to clear a ball in their penalty area, allowing Newman to step up and blast a shot past Mott to draw the Dockers level.
The Urchins defence were a bit more alert when Aromolaran worked his way into the box, with Cooper putting in a challenge before the Dockers forward could cause any further damage. Cooper however was damaged; he took a knock whilst putting his body on the line to end the Tilbury attack, being replaced by Brad Warner soon afterwards. And at the other end Abdul Salami put in a last-ditch challenge to dispossess Tobi Joseph. The game continued to be a hard slog as neither side was prepared to give an inch.
But the Dockers certainly had the better of the chances as the game entered the final ten minutes. Aromolaran had a low shot well saved by Mott in the 82nd minute; and he then rattled off a powerful headed that was only narrowly the wrong side of the post. Anderson then went closer still with a low shot that clipped the post. Hornchurch had a claim for a penalty in the 88th minute when Assombalonga went down from a Salami challenge, but the referee waved play on. The Dockers had ridden their luck on that occasion but they went on to have the final chance of the encounter when Aromolaran was played in as the clock wound down, but his shot was placed over the bar.
In the end a draw was probably a fair result, which keeps AFC Honchurch top, with an 11-point lead over Bowers & Pitsea. Tilbury meanwhile sit 15th, but having gone unbeaten in February, go into March looking to continue building on that unbeaten run – which currently stands at four.
AFC Hornchurch: Sam Mott, Jamie Hursit, Jay Porter, Kenzer Lee, Nathan Cooper (Brad Warner 76’), Elliot Styles (Capt), Sean Roberts, Olumide Oluwatimilehin (Alex Bentley 65’), Christian Assombalonga, George Purcell, Theo Fairweather-Johnson (Tobi Jospeh 65’).
Scorer – Christian Assombalonga (45’)
Tilbury: Clarke Bogard, Siju Odelesi (Dwade James 65’), Ross Gleed, Simon Peddie, Abdul Salami, Tom Anderson, Kris Newby, Jack Carlile, Adam Vyse (Capt), Kurt Smith (Harry Norman 67’), Toby Aromolaran (Charlie Little 90+3).
Scorer – Harry Norman (67’)