Bob Cumming - 1st August 2012
31st July 2012
This was Wokings first visit to the wide expanses of the athletics ground at The Stadium in Upminster since a 1984-85 Isthmian League Divison One encounter against Hornchurch. That club folded in 2005 and were reborn as AFC Hornchurch. However, Garry Hill was returning to one of his previous clubs, and used this fixture to run the eye over two new trialists.
Brett Williams, who made his name as a free-scoring forward with Eastleigh and was snapped up by Reading for a big fee in January 2011, has since struggled to regain that form, led the line for the whole match. Nathan Livings, an academy player with Chelsea and Bristol City, who has more recently spent time with Undroms IF in Sweden and the Glenn Hoddle Academy in Spain, was a lively addition for much of the second half.
Woking started with a flexible 4-3-3 with Howe in goal, Newton, McNerney, Johnson and Doyle across the back, Ricketts (pictured), Sawyer and Betsy in midfield, with Pires, Bubb and Williams switching positions constantly up front.
Hornchurch started strongly in front of the 80 fans who had dragged themselves away from the Olympics on the TV, or indeed from the nearby Olympic Park. Within four minutes Mark Ricketts conceded a foul on the edge of the box and ex-Card Jonathon Hunt struck his low free-kick through the wall and past the despairing dive of Aaron Howe just inside the near post. Hunt had joined Woking on loan from Barnet in 1991 before a meritorious career at several leading clubs in the pro-game, and continues to be influential at the age of 40.
Hornchurch controlled the first twenty minutes, working particularly well down their right flank, and had a good outlet in pacy forward Lewis Smith, who seemed to be involved in everything.
Slowly Cards Mark Ricketts marshalled the midfield back into the game, releasing Kevin Betsy for several crosses into the box. On 28 minutes Bradley Bubb put Loick Pires through but a perfect challenge by former Dartford defender, Paul Goodacre,on the penalty spot snuffed any danger.
Three minutes later Woking had their first direct shot on goal from a Lee Sawyer free-kick. Moments later Pires had another opportunity but was bundled out of contention by former Card Reiss Noel.
On 37 minutes Woking should have been two down. Hunt lobbed Joe McNerney for Smith to run on and fire a low shot that drew a brilliant save by Aaron Howe.
Woking struggled to contend with the Urchins' robust, but fair, play throughout the half.
Half time: AFC Hornchurch 1 Woking 0
Both sides started the second half with the same line-up, and the same pattern of play continued with Hornchurch pressing, then out of nothing the ball drifted over to Loick Pires in the box, to the left of goal, and instantly he slotted home at the near post for a 51st minute goal.
Garry Hill and Matt Howard started to make the changes on 55 minutes, bringing on Renee Steer, Nathan Livings and Jack Parkinson for Adam Doyle, Loick Pires and Joe McNerney respectively.
Hornchurch continued with the initiative, with Smith and Tuohy probing the Cards' defence. However, it was a back header from Brett Johnson that brought a quick reaction save from his own keeper, Howe palming the ball over the bar.
Woking made further substitutions on 65 minutes: Dean Sinclair for Adam Newton, Jay Davies for Lee Sawyer and Jesse Waller-Lassen for Kevin Betsy, and ten minutes later were forced to bring Kevin Betsy back on when Renee Steer went down injured under a heavy challenge. Steer was carried off the pitch and later stretchered back to the dressing rooms.
The closing section of the game had Woking in control, Davies, Waller-Lassen and Sinclair buttoning up midfield, Ricketts, Parkinson and Johnson sealing the defence, and some more inventive play up front culminating in a tremendous drive by Brett Williams that drew a superb diving save from keeper Woolley. Livings had one opportunity but he skied his shot over the bar. Brett Johnson looks to be a constant threat in the box from set pieces and set up Jay Davies late in the game, but the midfielder shot wide.
At the end of the game the few travelling Woking fans were left pondering over the various formations available to Garry Hill, particularly in front of goal. On this showing Hornchurch should be, at least, a mid-table proposition in Blue Square Bet South.
Woking: Aaron Howe, Adam Newton (Dean Sinclair 65), Adam Doyle (Rene Steer 55, Kevin Betsy 76), Mark Ricketts, Joe McNerney (Jack Parkinson 55), Brett Johnson, Loick Pires (Nathan Livings 55), Lee Sawyer (Jay Davies 65), Bradley Bubb, Brett Williams, Kevin Betsy (Jesse Waller-Lassen 65)
Scorer: Pires 51
Hornchurch: Joe Woolley, James Love (Andy Tomlinson 70), Jack Bentley, Reiss Noel, Paul Goodacre (Elliott Styles 59), Sam Cutler, Jonathan Hunt, Simon Glover, Martin Tuohy (Aaron Gayle 77), Lewis Smith (Leon McKenzie 77), Fola Orilonishe.
Subs not used: Tamerong Eyong, Joey May, Frankie Curley
Scorer: Hunt 4
MOTM: Mark Ricketts impressively competitive in midfield and defence.
Attendance: approx. 80