AFC Hornchurch 2 Lowestoft Town 1
By Terry Bullen
Lowestoft Town were robbed of a deserved point with a controversial and cruel penalty decision given against them in the 88th minute.
AFC Hornchurch: Echepare, Coyne, Bentley, Hayles, Styles, Curley, Duncan, May (Glover 89 mins), Yusuff (Rook 72 mins), Purcell (Spencer 90+), Bourne. Subs; Glover, Spencer, Rook, Coker, Starkey
Lowestoft Town: Jones, Jack Ainsley, Gaughran, Gleeson, Stuart Ainsley, Okay, Frew (Cunningham 69 mins), Lee Smith, Eagle, Henderson, Woods-Garness. Subs; Adam Smith, Cunningham, Otobo, Tarawali (Tino), Viner
Lowestoft Town were robbed of a deserved point with a controversial and cruel penalty decision given against them in the 88th minute. It wasn't the greatest of performances in really testing conditions but Lowestoft done enough against last seasons Conference South outfit Hornchurch to warrant a point.
Lowestoft came into the game carrying a few defensive injuries with Williams, Haynes-Brown and Crane all out. Gleeson and Gaughran were partnered at the back. While after not having a pre-season under him and gradually being introduced, Woods-Garness was given the nod up front.
The match got underway with a bit of zip in the surface following large downpours of rain, with Okay playing the role in front of defence, Henderson left, Frew right and Woods-Garness as the lone striker.
It was a fairly solid start by Lowestoft and even though the majority of the play was confined to the middle of the pitch, Woods-Garness was already looking for the gaps and runs off the shoulders of the Hornchurch defenders.
Woods-Garness nearly opened the scoring in the match following a ball from the right by Jack Ainsley but after connected really well with his head the ball went straight at the keeper Echepare.
At the other end Gaughran was looking consistently solid again but with Gleeson nearly played himself and Lowestoft into trouble, he was relieved to see the ball across the Lowestoft box dealt with by Gaughran and Jones.
A Lee Smith downward header went just past the foot of the post as the thirty minute mark approached with Lowestoft edging proceedings.
Hornchurch did eventually flirt with the goal though in the shape of Bourne, who managed to get a shot away in the Lowestoft box but it was charged down and sent behind by the Lowestoft defence.
Lee Smith was looking sharp in the middle and Lowestoft were putting some spells of slick football together in midfield but were still looking for that final telling pass to open up their opponents defence.
Henderson was apologetic to his team mates, management and supporters after his sending off Tuesday night and on 35 minutes he made up for it by sending Lowestoft in front. After brilliantly chesting the ball down in midfield he burst forward, skipped past a few players and then drilled the ball under the keeper for a great and fully deserved goal 1-0 (35 mins).
Lowestoft had worked hard to get in front and with them restricting Hornchurch in front of goal, they reached the break leading.
The second half started with the heavens opening in truly spectacular fashion, casting doubts on wether the game would even be finished.
It was no doubt going to have an effect on the play with the amount of rain that had fallen but things were then made even trickier for Lowestoft as a ball from the left saw Stuart Ainsley getting in a mix close to goal and with Jones unable to stop it going in for an own goal, the scores were level at 1-1 (48 mins).
The deteriorating conditions were making it difficult to predict the run of the ball and as a result the quality of the game dropped off with both sides resorting to the high ball. They were conditions which were also proving tricky to Eagle, who was struggling to find his game on the pitch.
As the half went on the rain did ease and both sides started to move it around a bit more on the deck but the game was also starting to get a bit niggly with both sets of players facing up on a few occasions.
A couple of chances in quick succession came for Hornchurch with Hayles sending a header wide from a corner and then with Purcell crossing from the right, Styles also sent in a downward header in on goal but Jones was equal to it.
With just over twenty minutes of the game remaining Lowestoft introduced Cunningham for Frew and with him taking up position on the left, Henderson moved to the right.
A draw was looking a fair result at this point with neither keeping being really tested this half but following a header from midfield, Purcell pealed off Gaughran to get in on goal but wasted the opportunity by dragging his shot wide when it should have been on target.
Hornchurch made their first change of the game and in fairness were causing the Lowestoft defence more issues this half, with Purcell being the main threat down the left and when coming inside.
Lowestoft were not fully on their game this half but in the whole it wasn't a great half by either side and was tough to watch at times. The game was going end to end on occasions but producing nothing of any real spark.
Cunningham picked up the only booking of the game for an over exuberant challenge, as the clock looked like ticking down to what would have been a fair draw.
A draw is what should have been the final score but in the 88th minute Lowestoft felt the brunt of a poor and controversial decision by the officials. Stuart Ainsley brought down a Hornchurch player outside the area, on the right side of the pitch and with the referee giving nothing the linesman unbelievably started waving for a penalty. The Lowestoft players were rightfully dumbstruck by the decision and Stuart Ainsley even pointed to the turfed up pitch outside the area but the decision stood and Purcell slotted home to harshly grab all three points for Hornchurch at the death; 2-1 (88 mins).
Hornchurch watched the clock down and made a couple of changes also but Lowestoft could do nothing and had to settle for nothing from a game they didn't deserve to lose.
In the first half especially there was some bright play in midfield with Lee Smith looking sharp and Okay string some good and committed tackles together. While Henderson was eager in his performance and scored a wonderful goal. However todays Man of the Match was a simple task really with a performance that really stood out in the Lowestoft defence. A performance that was combative, watchful, full of determination and a performance that rightfully secured Man of the Match honours for Sam Gaughran.
With the atrocious conditions I was unable to grab an interview after the game but did briefly catch joint manager Ady Gallagher who felt his side had been on the wrong end of a poor decision at the death. He said that the team were not at their best and had come into the game with injuries but looked solid throughout and deserved a point against a side who were in the Conference South last season.
Next up for Lowestoft is the local derby on Bank Holiday Monday, when they entertain Leiston. Lets get the Crown Meadow full of supporters and get right behind the team!