Tricky Ricky Paves Way For Next Round of FA Cup
Captain Ricky Wellard was the hero as his first-half strike sealed the Beavers’ place in the fourth round of FA Cup qualifying.
In a fast-paced, competitive encounter with the unbeaten Bostik Premier side, the hosts endured some nervy moments but held on to progress in the competition.
In typical FA Cup wet and windy conditions, the game began at a ferocious pace with both teams eager to take the upper hand. Tyrell Miller-Rodney struck an audacious effort over the bar after just 25 seconds and he and Rhys Murrell-Williamson enjoyed a good spell down the right-hand side as the hosts gradually took a hold of the game.
Casey Maclaren went close with a curling header after 11 minutes and Murrell-Williamson continued to give the visitors’ defence headaches with some dazzling footwork in the box.
Hornchurch refused to lie down however and Tom Lovelock was soon called into action. George Purcell fired a free-kick straight into the home side’s wall, but Lovelock did well to palm away Connor Hogan’s stinging follow-up.
The match started to open up and both teams had their share of opportunities. Matt Whichelow saw his shot flash just past the post, before Purcell fired wide at the other end just before the 20 minute mark.
The importance of progression in the competition and the £15,000 prize money wasn’t lost on the players and the competitive nature was a constant theme of the first half. A series of fouls from the home side led to Maclaren being the first name in the book on 22 minutes.
Hampton were knocking on the door with Murrell-Williamson and Whichelow forcing saves from away goalkeeper Callum Chafer. A period of pressure from the home side followed and Michael Corcoran fired just over the bar after 32 minutes following the Beavers’ sixth corner of the game.
Chris Dickson then had his first real chance of the game as Hampton broke on the counter-attack following a Hornchurch corner, but a deflection helped the ball fall safely into the hands of Chafer.
The Beavers had a handle on the game as the tie headed towards the interval and it seemed like they may be left to rue a series of good chances. Yet, on 38 minutes, up stepped skipper Ricky Wellard who finally broke the deadlock with a great strike from the edge of the area following some neat footwork. (Watch the goal on the club's Twitter here)
Despite the hosts carving out the better opportunities, Hornchurch were by no means out of the contest and the high intensity remained until the half-time whistle was blown by referee Steven Hughes.
The Urchins came out fighting after the break and substitute George Saunders announced himself to the Beveree crowd with a fizzing shot that breezed just past Lovelock’s left post.
After 49 minutes, Lovelock was shown a controversial yellow card for handling outside the box. Following the resulting free-kick, Miller-Rodney was also cautioned after being adjudged to have broken away from the wall prematurely. Bradley Warner fired straight into the wall on his second attempt, before a melee in the Beavers’ box demonstrated that Hornchurch weren’t out of this game just yet.
As the match drifted towards the hour mark, Purcell fired just over the bar for the visitors before Maclaren went close at the other end; the game still hanging finely in the balance.
There were shouts for a penalty from the home side after Corcoran was brought down in the area after another Hampton and Richmond corner, but referee Hughes waved away all of the Beavers’ protests.
As the game entered its final stages, Murrell-Williamson went agonisingly close to doubling Hampton’s lead after a smart move involving Dickson and substitute Zak Joseph.
With 6 minutes left, Leon McKenzie was introduced from the bench for the away side and he marked his arrival with a trying effort from distance.
McKenzie continued to cause problems for the hosts and should have levelled for Hornchurch in the dying minutes but his header sailed over the crossbar.
Warner squandered a great chance to force a replay, but his injury-time free-kick was deflected behind for a corner. Warner then saw an ambitious attempt from distance bounce off the crossbar as the Urchins pushed for a last-gasp equaliser.
Despite a nervous finish, the home side held on for a crucial victory which confirmed their place in Monday’s draw.
Following the game, Beavers manager Gary McCann reflected on his team’s performance: “I felt we could have controlled it better than we did but I’m really pleased with the defensive display and obviously the win and progression to the next round.”
On the type of draw he would prefer, McCann said: “We want an easy game at home. We want to see ourselves in the first round proper for the first time in a long time.”
Today also marked a special day for McCann off the field: “It’s my brother’s birthday who passed away nearly three years ago. I just want to dedicate that win to him because he’s never forgotten.”
Ties for the next round are due to be played on the weekend of October 20. The Beavers are back in action away at Wealdstone next Saturday, October 13.