Elliot Styles hitting the right notes for Hornchurch as they end Bank Holiday weekend with Thurrock success
PUBLISHED: 15:00 30 August 2016
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It was a Bank Holiday weekend of mixed fortunes for Hornchurch, starting with a visit to Bowers Gifford, where Bowers & Pitsea fielded the team that had won the Essex Senior League last season.
Bowers once played at the Gun Inn ground, but this has long disappeared beneath the ‘new’ A13, in the name of progress. So when you are stuck in one of the notorious traffic jams on the approach to the Saddlers Farm roundabout, you are almost certainly at some point right above their old ground.
They were at the time known as Bowers Utd, but they added the Pitsea part of the name in an effort to attract more local support. It has not worked all that well, as many of the locals seem unaware that there is a team in the area, which is a great disappointment as football at this level deserves a better following.
The last time Hornchurch played at Bowers was almost eleven years ago, in the Essex Senior League when, on a day when the rain poured down, the only goal of the match came in the fourth minute of stoppage time as Rikki Burbridge fired the ball through the mud and into the net with what was the last kick of the game.
So, when Abs Thompson put us ahead after just twenty seconds on Saturday, Hornchurch had scored two goals on the same ground inside less than thirty seconds of playing time, admittedly with almost eleven years separating them.
Bowers won the Essex Senior League last season and made a good start in the higher standard Isthmian League. They were unbeaten in the division, though their record seemed about to disappear inside twenty seconds, when Thompson fired in a low cross that was going into the net only for a home player to help it on its way. After a close examination of the video, it was recorded as an own goal, although the ball may well have been going in regardless.
A defensive error allowed Bowers to get back into the game, and then, within a minute of the second half, they took the lead with an excellent solo run, aided by a back-peddling defence.
Club captain Elliot Styles headed Hornchurch’s second goal, but another defensive slip allowed Bowers to regain the lead and take the points.
Since we last played at Bowers Gifford, the pitch has undergone an incredible facelift, and the once much criticised playing surface now looks immaculate, following a lot of hard work during the close season. It is now a credit to both the club and to the Isthmian League.
Two days later we entertained Thurrock, and it was a much improved performance all round. All-time leading scorer George Purcell put Hornchurch ahead with one of his specials - hopefully the first of many this season - and Styles then volleyed home his fourth goal of the season shortly after the interval.
Last season Elliot scored four goals in fifty matches. This season he has equalled that total in just five matches.
Manager Jim McFarlane gave Harry Agombar his debut appearance, albeit he was only on the field for just over a minute. And it was a debut against his old club, as he made seventeen appearances for Thurrock last season.
Hornchurch now travel to Rushden & Diamonds for the next round of the FA Cup, and make a piece of local history in the process, as they have never before played a club from the Northern Premier League. Rushden were in the Southern League but were forced to switch to the northern equivalent due to their geographical location. They are currently holding a mid-table position, with six points from their four matches.
For anyone intending to make their own way to the match, Rushden play at the Dog and Duck in Wellingborough, as they are being forced to ground share with Wellingborough Utd.
There are two grounds at the Dog and Duck, and both entrances are on the same pathway. So make sure you go into the ground marked Wellingborough Utd and not the one that belongs to Wellingborough Whitworth, otherwise you will be at the wrong match.
There will be a match at Bridge Avenue next Tuesday - it will either be a replay against Rushden & Diamonds, or a league match against Brentwood Town, the latter obviously depending on the result of the FA Cup game.