McFarlane hopes Hornchurch hold up

Urchins boss has injury fears for busy spell

Hornchurch manager Jimmy McFarlane hopes his squad can stand up to the rigours of the next couple of weeks as they bid to maintain their chase for honours.

Urchins came from behind to claim three Ryman Premier Division points at Concord last weekend, then beat Thurrock on penalties in the Essex Senior Cup in a dress rehearsal for their FA Trophy clash.

But several players are carrying knocks and McFarlane is keeping his fingers crossed the damage is not too bad as his side visit Hastings tomorrow and host Carshalton on Tuesday.

He said: “We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing. They’re all tough games when you’re doing well and we’ve got Hastings, Carshalton, Thurrock and Hendon over the next two weeks.

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“I saw Hastings at Aveley and it’s not going to be easy. They’re a massive young side, who are very enthusiastic.

“I’ve seen Carshalton twice, but that was a few weeks ago and I’ll watch them at Maidstone and see what they’ve got now.”

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McFarlane had to field a makeshift side at Ship Lane against former club Thurrock, but they battled to a goalless draw before winning the shoot-out.

Ronnie Fletcher even came back into the line-up, a few weeks after being released by the club, and netted from the spot as Urchins booked a trip to Colchester.

McFarlane added: “Ronnie took a call on Saturday evening and played out of his skin. He didn’t leave on bad terms and I’ve known him for 10 years.

“He’s got great technique for a big lad and his penalty was the pick of the bunch.

“I was keeping my fingers crossed we didn’t pick up any more bad injuries. There was an awful challenge on Dave McSweeney, he has been unlucky this year, but Michael Spencer’s is the type that happens every game, tough, but just a fraction late.

“We haven’t got the biggest squad and if it had been a league game, I might’ve forced a few to take part.

“We put Lewis Smith on the bench to make up the numbers and he came on just to take a penalty, but that didn’t work!

“We had Les Thompson at right-back and Joe Anderson playing left midfield. Aaron Gayle isn’t fully fit and some hadn’t had 90 minutes in a while.

“I wanted to win for obvious reasons. I had the best years of my footballing career there. It wasn’t as pleasing as Saturday’s win, but it was still pleasing considering.

“But a few of the boys will have to be assessed. The physio is having a busy week.”

The two sides meet again tomorrow week (November 26) and McFarlane expects just as close a contest against Robbie Garvey’s struggling Fleet.

He said: “I’ve known Robbie for 20 years and he asked me what my team was going to be and I said a bit of a mixed bag. They had their full side, they wanted to win.

“They were all regular first-team players who started for them. We got a good look at them, but the FA Trophy will be a much, much bigger test. Not for a second do I expect it to be easy, it will be a lot harder.”

All things considered, McFarlane is pleased with the progress his side is making this season and there is plenty of confidence in the Urchins camp, especially since the arrival of keeper Joe Woolley.

He added: “When you look back at the games we’ve lost this season, we didn’t deserve to lose any and that’s not me being biased.

“We’ve seen them all now, all the teams who are going to be in contention. Our Achilles heel has always been against the sides who are struggling.

“Joe Woolley has made a massive difference and his first penalty save was as good as any I’ve seen. It was a good strike, with a lot of power, and going in the corner, but Joe guessed the right way and parried it out. Both goalies did well.

“No matter how confident you are, you get an extra lift if the one behind you gets what he should. It gives you another five per cent and Joe has done that with our back four.

“If we can just not lose too many more to injury....”

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