Hornchurch get off to a flying start to life in Bostik Premier
PUBLISHED: 09:00 12 August 2018
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Bostik Premier: Hornchurch 3 Leatherhead 0
Hornchurch made a spectacular return to the Premier Division with a convincing win over one of the title favourites, Leatherhead.
The result was a personal triumph for manager Jim McFarlane, back in charge after his stroke only a few months earlier, a recovery far quicker than anyone expected.
Before the match there was a minute’s silence in memory of our secretary, Peter Butcher.
The first ten minutes was even, with Nikki Bull gathering a George Purcell centre, and Travis Gregory sending a shot wide at the other end. Nathan Cooper did well to make a late tackle to deny Shaun Okojie, and then came an early indication of what was to follow, when Jamie Hursit sent the ball along the wing, and George Saunders, who last season played four levels below for Kelvedon Hatch, left Matthew Bozier trailing as he raced down the touchline, sending the ball over towards the far post, where Sean Marks just failed to get a touch.
We had a repeat performance a couple of minutes later, and this time Saunders found Purcell at the far post, his shot crashing into the side netting. And it happened yet again, the ball again reaching Purcell whose shot went over the bar.
Nathan Cooper was called upon to make the tackle when Travis Gregory neatly rounded Hursit, but this proved to be one of just a handful of chances for Leatherhead, as Hornchurch began to pile on the pressure.
Alex Bentley created an opening for Purcell, whose volley was a little too high to trouble Bull in the visiting goal. Bull then made two excellent saves in a matter of seconds, firstly from Purcell, and then from Marks.
Hornchurch won a free kick when Purcell was fouled as he moved on to a Saunders pass, and Brad Warner floated the ball dangerously towards the far post, where Bull punched clear.
But Hornchurch could not be denied, and they took the lead on 39 minutes, when Purcell made the initial opening for Brad Warner, whose hard shot was blocked, only for the ball to run back to Warner, who this time made no mistake, his return shot rocketing past Bull and into the net.
The Leatherhead defence often struggled to contain the home forwards in the second half, and on 52 minutes Hursit played the ball along to Purcell, who quickly found Warner in midfield.
Warner made ground, and turned the ball out to the left wing, where Jay Porter cut inside towards goal and neatly glided the ball home past Bull for the second goal.
Leatherhead briefly rallied, with Callum Chafer saving from Gregory, but play quickly moved back to the other end, where Warner fed the ball to Purcell, whose left footed drive went over the bar.
Chafer turned a hard free kick from Matthew Drage around the post, and Cooper completed the clearance from the resulting corner.
Then came the best goal of the game, with Saunders, having an inspired debut out on the right, racing along the wing and playing the ball across goal for Sean Marks to finish off from close range.
Saunders tried hard to get onto the score sheet, and he made an electrifying run in from the right, with Bull saving in fine style, although perhaps it might have been better to play the ball across to the unmarked Marks.
Saunders then switched wings and moved in from the left, this time playing the ball into the middle where no one could quite get a touch.
As the match entered stoppage time Leatherhead had one final chance to get onto the scoresheet when Cooper conceded a free kick on the edge of the area, but the free kick was turned around the post by Chafer at full stretch, and Hornchurch had picked up their first three points and their first clean sheet of the season.
Hornchurch: Chafer, Hursit, Porter, Lee, Cooper ©, Bentley, Saunders, Warner (Fairweather-Johnson 82), Marks (McKenzie 78), Purcell, Livings (Hogan 75)
Unused subs: Coker, Collis
Leatherhead: Bull, Salmon, Bozier, Semakula, Nnamani, Drage, Gallagher, Cullen (Hyppolyte 46), Benyon, Gregory, Okojie (Richefond 68)
Unused subs: Seager, Dembele, Blake.