Hornchurch approach half-time in ‘remarkable season’
PUBLISHED: 11:45 28 December 2018
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With the season close to the halfway mark, we are sitting in a precarious position at the wrong end of the league table.
It’s been a remarkable season so far – remarkable for its complete contrasts. We started with a comfortable three-goal win over Leatherhead, perhaps too comfortable, as it gave little indication of what was to follow.
Our next two matches were both away from home, starting at Wingate & Finchley, where we dominated the first half, only to struggle in the final 45 minutes, and we were happy to take a point.
We had a taste of what the Bostik Premier Division was like when we went to Enfield four days later.
We were overwhelmed for long periods, and fortunate to be only two goals down. To make things worse, we lost Kenzer Lee during the first half, this being the first of a long run of injuries to key players.
But just when we thought we were going down to a heavy defeat, Brad Warner scored from a free kick, and with the final kick of the match, George Saunders crossed into the middle and Sean Marks was waiting to put it into the net for a point that we were only too happy to take.
When we went to Dorking, where clouds of black pellets rose up whenever the ball bounced, we were three goals up in the first half, and it could easily have been more, as we threatened to overwhelm the home side.
But Dorking pulled a goal back early in the second half and in the end we were fortunate to escape with a 3-3 draw.
After six drawn games in succession we had another three-goal win, this time over Burgess Hill, and then came the best performance of the season, a 4-1 win over Folkestone.
But the Folkestone match was also the turning point of our season.
We lost our captain, Nathan Cooper, midway during the first half, and although we did not know it at the time, his injury proved to be serious enough to put him out of action, possibly for the rest of the season.
And 12 weeks later we are still waiting for our next three points.
After losing at Haringey, manager Jim McFarlane resigned, after 502 games in charge. We did not want him to resign, but he had made up his mind, and Colin McBride acted quickly to bring in Mark Stimson from Thurrock, via Waltham Abbey.
The exodus had already started as Warner had left to go back to Bowers where he quickly regained his goalscoring touch in the lower division.
It was damp and dismal at Whitehawk, where Stimson sat alongside McBride for his first taste of football, Hornchurch-style. We drew 1-1 but thought we should have won, as Nana Boakye-Yiadom had a goal disallowed for offside, with the video later indicating that the decision was incorrect.
But when you are on a losing streak, things tend to go against you.
Stimson quickly made changes – we lost Leon McKenzie, who was snapped up by Walthamstow (who last season were known as Waltham forest).
Leon Smith was released, as were Theo Fairweather-Johnson and Bode Anidugbe, the latter two both linking up with Sam Mott and Usman Adeniji at Ashford United.
Stimson has brought in five ex-Thurrock players, including George and Ronnie Winn, James Goode, Joe Christou and Charlie Stimson, though Christou and Goode are at present sidelined due to injury,
Also coming in was Taylor Miles, on loan from Chelmsford City, and Lee Prescott, from Margate, both of whom made their debuts at Margate, where the match was played in atrocious conditions, and where only an excellent display by the home goalkeeper prevented us from taking three points, with two fine saves in stoppage time.
Equally, at the other end, it was Callum Chafer who made some excellent saves to deny Margate, so perhaps we cannot complain too much.
So we are still looking for our first win under our new manager. The signs are there, confidence is coming back, and we are confident we can move back up the table and out of the relegation zone.