Hornchurch 2 Enfield Town 0
Report by Andrew Warshaw
If ever there was an occasion to feel proud in defeat, this was surely it.
They be oft-used cliches but football is a cruel game and you sometimes don’t get what you deserve.
The faces on Town’s crestfallen players and management team following Saturday’s defeat against the unbeaten runaway league leaders said everything about how, in open play at least, we more matched our opponents’ big-name players, one of whom had played more than 100 games for Crystal Palace.
It won’t be much consolation to Gavin and the boys but the Hornchurch fans and staff conceded it was by far their biggest test of the season, Rhys Forster hardly having a shot of note to save.
None of that, however, can disguise the fact that title-winning sides find a way to win even when below-par and two almost identical set-piece goals ultimately did for Town.
Hornchurch are that kind of team, they grind you down. Keep their forwards quiet and someone else will invariably come up with the goods, in this case skipper Ryan Scott.
Yet for long periods on Saturday, it was Town who looked like the side in pole position, especially in the first half.
Josh Okotcha and Sam Youngs had early half-chances and even when Josh slipped on the rain-soaked surface at the other end, he recovered well to avert the danger.
Hornchurch had to wait for 20 minutes for their first major foray when Nathan Green powered his way through but screwed wide.
Though this was a day when Joe Payne’s long throws got little change out of a mean defence, we still looked the more dangerous team in open play. Marcus Wyllie played in Reece Beckles-Richards whose goalbound shot took a deflection. Then the roles were then reversed as Reece’s ball into the middle proved just too high for Marcus.
As halftime approached, we so near nearly grabbed the lead, only for Ollie Muldoon, in his 100th appearance for Hornchurch, to make a terrific goal-line clearance.
Former Towner Joe Wright was then called into action to tip a Sam Youngs header over the bar in the final action of the half.
Town again began on the front foot, Marcus narrowly missing the target on the volley when Payne, for once, went short with his throw.
We needed to bed and in and stay focussed but on 53 minutes, all our hard work was undone as Scott rose highest to convert Tom Wraight’s corner.
As we pressed for an equaliser, a rare error at the back allowed Marcus to round the keeper but he couldn’t quite force the ball home from the narrowest of angles. Moments later he saw another effort cleared off the line (pictured).
As we pushed forward, so Hornchurch’s fitness began to tell as they threatened a second goal on the counter. So it proved yet it took an identical set piece to double their lead.
When Ade Youssef cut inside and saw his shot deflected, Tom Wraight swung over the corner and Scott was on hand once again to power home a header with seven minutes remaining.
“We were the better side overall, no question about that,” said Gavin Macpherson after we slipped to third and saw Hornchurch extend their lead to 11 points. “But the two goals were a carbon copy, we didn’t attack the ball.”
“We knew what Scott did at set-pieces and we worked on it before so it was a massive disappointment. I don’t want to dress it up. There’s a reason why they are at the top, it’s because they do things like that.”
“They might argue they weren’t at their best but the fact is we were better. Having said that, you don’t get anything for being better unless you defend your own box and be more potent in the opposition box.”
“The boys are absolutely gutted and in a way I look at it as an opportunity missed. But in terms of desire, attitude and application, I cannot ask for any more. It tells me we are heading massively in the right direction.”
Town: Forster; Parcell, Richmond, Okotcha, Payne; Adjel-Hersey Onyeahwara, (63) , Youngs, Thomas (Taaffe, 84), Beckles-Richards; Sykes (Keeya 71), Wyllie