Night to remember for Hornchurch legend Elliot Styles, as attention now turns to 2017/18 Isthmian North campaign
PUBLISHED: 12:00 16 May 2017
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The trouble with testimonial matches is that it is quite common for named players to fail to turn up, and these games often end up as a pointless kick-around.
This was certainly not the case when Elliot Styles had his testimonial last Friday, to mark his ten years and 500 appearances for Hornchurch.
How can you call it 500 when Elliot has “only” played in 499 games? Quite easy really as he has also played in over sixty pre-season friendlies, taking his combined total to 563 appearances in all matches.
Incredibly he has been the Hornchurch captain for the last eight seasons, and he has led his team out a record 362 times.
It was a thoroughly deserved testimonial, and we now look forward to Elliot overtaking the record number of competitive appearances, set up by Peter Goddard, which stands at 523.
The largest crowd of the season turned out to mark the occasion, and they were kept entertained throughout, in a match where play switched from end to end.
So many ex-Urchins wanted to play that it was decided to mix up the two teams, so that the ‘legends’ were evenly distributed between the Reds, called The Entertainers, and the Yellows, called Boring United, both of which were topped up by a few of our current players.
The match itself ended in a 3-3 draw, with ex-Urchin favourite Dean Green netting two of the goals for the Boring team, which was captained by Elliot himself. The other goal came from a current Urchin, Sam Bantick.
For The Entertainers, George Purcell led the way with two goals, one of which was a typical Purcell special, and Ross Wall also got onto the scoresheet.
But, Elliot apart, the main honours went to both goalkeepers, Richard Wray and Callum Chafer, both of whom made some remarkable saves.
And of course we also had Colin McBride playing in midfield, albeit only for half of the match. Jim McFarlane also came on to make a cameo appearance a few minutes from the end.
Would Elliot score? We all hoped so, but twice in the last five minutes of the game he put his shot just over the bar.
Elliot was not the only long serving player on the pitch - we also had the return of Frankie Curley, who played 298 times for Hornchurch.
Andy Tomlinson, whose 270 appearances puts him in fifth place in the all-time list, with other members of our own 200-club, Billy Coyne (244) and Martin Tuohy (233), making five players on the pitch with a combined total of over 1500 appearances.
Next season we have another landmark coming up, which has so far received only minimal publicity. Our manager, Jim McFarlane, has been in charge for 422 matches, and at some point next season, he should overtake Arthur Wenborn, who was in charge for 459 matches.
After the match we had the presentation of the Player of the Season awards - Leon McKenzie took the Supporters’ Player of the Season award, his 37 goals including six hat-tricks.
And Kenzer Lee took the Players’ Player award. Kenzer started the season playing in midfield, but then moved back when we lost Paul Goodacre with a long term injury.
So our season is now officially over, and we now look forward to the new season, with pre-season matches beginning in July.
NEXT SEASON - WHO WILL WE BE PLAYING?
With all promotion and relegation issues now sorted out, or so we thought, the pyramid structure was thrown into confusion when Worcester City resigned from the pyramid due to financial reasons, and asked to be demoted to a lower league.
They got slightly more than they asked for, as they only expected to drop down two levels. But they ended up dropping three levels, into the Midland League, and in so doing they set off a chain reaction, which has had quite an effect on our own Isthmian League.
We had expected that we would entertain Harrow Borough next season, but this will not now happen as Worcester’s resignation meant that Harrow were given a reprieve and they will now remain in the Isthmian Premier.
And Ware, who thought they were relegated, were also reprieved and will take their place in the Isthmian North Division once again.
We wondered which of the three Kent-based clubs would be moved into the Isthmian South. We now know that all three of them - VCD Athletic, Thamesmead and Phoenix Sports - have been transferred back south of the river, something which is likely to be pleasing to all of them.
The net outcome is that we have lost Brightlingsea Regent and Thurrock, both promoted, Wroxham and Great Wakering, relegated, and the three Kent clubs.
In their places, we now receive - AFC Sudbury, Canvey Island and Grays Athletic (relegated from the Isthmian Premier), Barking (promoted from Essex Senior League), Mildenhall Town (promoted from the Eastern Counties League), London Colney (promoted from South Midland League), and Potters Bar Town (transferred from the Southern League).
Hornchurch have never played Mildenhall Town before, so for our supporters this will be a new ground to visit and a new team to welcome to Bridge Avenue.
We have played Sudbury four times in league matches, winning one and drawing three, and once in the league cup, when we won 1-0 in December 2016, with Ross Wall scoring the only goal of the game a few minutes from time.
We have never played London Colney in a league match, but in 1998 we drew 1-1 with them at home in an F.A. Cup match, and lost 1-0 in the replay three days later.
We have played Potters Bar three times previously. In 2006 we played them twice in the league, winning 2-0 at home, with goals from Gary Cross and Amos Foyewa, and 1-0 away with Kris Lee the scorer. We again met them in a league cup match in 2008, which we won 4-0, with two goals each from Dean Green and Ross Wall.
We last played Canvey in 2014-15, winning 3-0 away from home, with two goals from loanee Reece Beckles-Richards and one from Danny Johnson. In the return match we won 2-0. George Purcell put us ahead early on, but we then lost Sam Mott to a straight red.
Elliot Styles, in what was his 399th match for Hornchurch, went in goal, and we retained our lead until three minutes from time when John Easterford, then playing for Canvey but now with the Urchins, was sent off for a foul on Martin Tuohy, who calmly stepped up to convert the resulting penalty to give us a two nil win.
We have played Grays many times, the most recent being in 2014-15, when we lost by the only goal of the game away from home, and won on New Years Day at home, with goals from Junior Luke and George Purcell.
Barking are our very near neighbours, but although we have played them 43 times, we have never before met them in a league match.
We have however played Barking & East Ham twice in the league, in 2002-03, drawing 1-1 at Mayesbrook, and winning 5-1 at home.
This was when Barking had merged with East Ham Utd, a short-lived affair that did not last for very long.
We will also meet four clubs who play on artificial 3G pitches, namely Haringey Borough, AFC Sudbury, and, on the assumption that the ground is ready in time for the new season, Aveley FC, along with their tenants, Grays Athletic.