Football

27-3-21 Notts County 3 Hornchurch 3 FA Trophy (Hornchurch won on penalties)

Part-time Essex side Hornchurch made history by knocking out Notts County on penalties to reach Wembley for the first time ever.

The Urchins continued their unbelievable run in the FA Trophy to edge out the Magpies in their eighth such cup tie.

Under ex-league player Mark Stimson Hornchurch have continually overcome the odds, this time scoring late equalisers in both halves before converting all their spot-kicks. 

As well as having to compete without any league games in the last three months due to the covid lockdown restrictions.

 

Hornchurch hadn't played a competitive match for a month and no league games since mid-December.

So they could have been forgiven for a slow start at Meadow Lane.

Which saw County's top scorer Kyle Wootton convert a cross within ten minutes of the kick-off.

His aerial prowess caused lots of problems for the visitors' defence especially with the quality of distribution from the left-hand side.

Where Dutch wide man Enzio Boldewijn was the main prompter.

Not for the first time, it seemed the Urchins were under severe pressure.

They responded with a typically creative turn, run and shot by the dangerous Sam Higgins.

Otherwise, Hornchurch looked vulnerable. 

But anyone, like your correspondent, who has followed their cup run knows not to underestimate their resilience.

And, somewhat out of the blue, they levelled after a wicked (they usually are!) deflected shot by ex-Wycombe player Lewwis Spence eluded Slocombe in the home goal.

However, Notts restored their advantage when Boldewijn capped his excellent first-half by setting up Rodrigues.

As we awaited the interval Hornchurch put together a fine move down the left which culminated in Liam Nash scoring the second equaliser in added time.

Notts, the oldest professional club in the world, went in a little stunned.

 

And they would be generally less fluent in the second period.

Hornchurch more than held their own until later on when the black & white shirts tended to get on top.

Watching from the sidelines new coach Ian Burchnall seemed to be assessing, perhaps slightly unbelieving, the action on the pitch.

Like most Notts fans he would have been expecting a winning start to his reign, against opposition two levels below his playoff contenders.

And for most of the match that looked to be happening.

Especially when his substitute Elisha Sam was at the far post to easily score after the ball broke to him following a freekick.

Surely Notts, founded in 1862 as is proudly displayed on one of the stands, and with a fine Football League setup would prevail? 

But it was not to be, as the incredibly resilient Isthmian Leaguers levelled yet again, in about the 92nd minute.

Again it was from a long ball, a return header and a simple finish for a double from Nash.

The men in red, joined by all their coaching staff, celebrated wildly.

Going in the shootout maybe Notts feared the worst as their homework would have indicated the track record of Joe Wright in the Essex sides goal.

He had kept King's Lynn to zero penalty conversions in a previous round.

This time Joe needed just one save, from Jake Reeves, as his team scored all five of their kicks.

Fittingly some of the stars of the team, defenders Clark, Hayles and Muldoon, all delivered.

The drama ended with substitute Chris Dickson smashing in the decider triggering even more ecstasy among the Urchins contingent.

 

Even the most optimistic Hornchurch fan could not possibly have envisaged them winning eight Trophy ties to reach Wembley.

Hence all their team, and their coaches, deserve tremendous credit.

However, some sympathy should be given to Notts who, though not alone in this, must have thought they would get through.

The Urchins date with destiny, against National League Hereford, is on May 22nd at the 'Home of Football'.

Report & Analysis - John Bethell

 


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