Happy away-day for Hornchurch

PUBLISHED: 14:00 27 September 2017

Hornchurch's Kenzer Lee (left) netted in their win at Norwich United (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

Hornchurch's Kenzer Lee (left) netted in their win at Norwich United (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

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Paul Goodacre has left Hornchurch (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)Paul Goodacre has left Hornchurch (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

On Saturday we travelled to bottom-of-the-table Norwich United, perhaps expecting a routine three points.

And when Nathan Cooper followed up after the home defence failed to clear a free kick to score in the fifth minute, most of us relaxed, in anticipation of a comfortable three points.

Kenzer Lee made it 2-0 on 25 minutes and that is where the scoring stopped, thanks to a first-class display by home goalkeeper Andy Wilton, who made a series of fine saves to keep the score down to respectable levels.

But there was a selection problem for manager Jim McFarlane, as he was missing Elliot Styles, Alex Bentley, Tobi Joseph, all out with injury, and George Purcell, who is suspended for three matches following his red card at Hertford Town.

The net result was that McFarlane could only name three substitutes, with the first-team squad down to just 14 fit players, so perhaps the result, albeit against the bottom team, was better than expected.

And, as an added bonus, Sam Mott kept another clean sheet, his fifth of the season, and his 63rd since joining Hornchurch three seasons ago.

This makes Sam the third most successful goalkeeper in terms of shut-outs, behind Gary Harrold, who recorded 66 cleans in his 216 matches between 1978 and 1985, and Geoff Powell, who had 64 in two spells at the club between 1965 and 1974.

With no match in midweek, as our game against Ware was postponed as they had a county cup match to slot in, we now make the 400-mile round trip on Saturday to Hereford, a ground we have never been to before.

We played Hereford United in the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup in 2013, and were denied a replay with a goal in the third minute of stoppage time, which many considered to be offside, and which resulted from a move that was started by a player who had just a few minutes earlier escaped a second yellow card!

Bentley and Purcell both played in this match, along with Styles, but for Elliot is was not a match he would want to remember, as he was shown a red card just five minutes into the second half following a mistimed tackle.

The Hereford we are playing this time is not the same one, as the original club was wound up in the High Court after a petition had been brought against it by HM Revenue and Customs, in December 2014.

The current club, Hereford FC, play at the same stadium as the original Hereford United, and the record attendance was 18,114, set up in 1958 for an FA Cup match against Sheffield Wednesday.

The ground has been greatly reduced in capacity since then, and now holds 5,300, and they have an impressive average attendance this season of over 2,000.

There is strict segregation at Edgar Street, and our own supporters will be housed along the side known as the Len Weston stand and terrace. Car parking is an expensive £5, but there is little choice as the surrounding area is for residents only.

If Saturday’s match is drawn, the replay will be on Tuesday at Bridge Avenue. Otherwise we will be at home to Grays Athletic in the Isthmian League. Grays are currently in 20th position in the table, with two wins from their seven matches, and last Saturday they lost to Hertford Town, who scored the only goal of the game in the final minute.

So it’s off to Hereford this weekend and back at the Bridge on Tuesday, against either Hereford in a replay, or Grays in the league.

And it is a big thank you to Paul Goodacre, who decided to leave the club last week, after making 67 appearances in his three seasons at Hornchurch.

Paul has been hampered by long-term injuries in his time at the Bridge and we are confident that he will quickly find a club, once fully fit again.

Given his position in the heart of the defence, it is to his credit that he was shown just one yellow card in his time at Hornchurch, which is surely a remarkable record given the way referees are instructed to issue yellows for offences which many consider to be trivial.

It is not the referees who are at fault, but the system itself. But Paul has proved that it is possible to beat that system.

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