Hornchurch 2 vs Lewes 2: The lost boys

We’re on the journey back, sinking a few quiet train beers, when we’re joined by that by rarest of species: a benevolent Millwall fan.

He’s carrying a full can of Strongbrow that’s so deformed, it would have taken Stephen Hawking a month to work out how the contents haven’t already exploded everywhere.

“I’ve had a great day out,” says our new friend, as if he’s just passed up a chance to have a crack at Bully’s Prize Board. “But I’ve lost my son at the game.”

Nervous glances are exchanged between the gaggle of travelling Rooks. Bristol Jim immediately starts Googling the number for Esther Rantzen’s Childline. Chris the Cab begins organising a search party. “He should be alright, though,” adds our inebriated Lions fans. “He’s 31.”

We all felt a bit like Millwall Dad after the game. We’d had a cracking day out, seen a good game, but we’d lost something. In our case, two valuable points.

Twice the Rooks had the lead, twice we were pegged back. Nine times out of ten you’d take a point at Hornchurch, a tough team that play on a pitch that’s so horrific they do their best to shield you from seeing it:

“We’re only here for the discus,” sang the Youth Wing lads, delivering the chant of the game.

Of course, they weren’t only here for the track-and-field. They were here to see The Bastard put us into an early lead. Deon Moore funneled his way down the left flank and cut back a glorious lofted ball that Taylor cooly volled home.

The scoring run Joe is on at the moment is nothing short of sensational. He’s scored in 10 of our past 12 games. No wonder the terrace wags are printing stickers in his honour.

That goal merely poked the beast. Hornchurch were pretty threatening before we scored, now we’d prodded them with a stick.

That it took them until 35 minutes to equalise was largely down to two things: the brilliance of Lew Carey in goal and the industry of Archie Tamplin at right-back.

Tamplin’s been on the bench for the past few weeks, but this was his first outing. He’s nominally a midfielder, but he was pitched in at right-back because it’s not only Millwall fans who are going missing in mysterious circumstances. Johnville Renee has joined the full-back exodus and headed for Enfield Town, while Jamie Mascoll, the left-back who departed last week, was on the bench for Hornchurch, sheepishly warming up in front of the Rooks fans. What is going on with full-backs this season? We’re going through them like hot dinners.

Anyway, even if Tamplin wasn’t fully at home at right-back, he played well. He snapped into tackles, was keen to get forward and distributed the ball with accuracy. Carey, meanwhile, was flinging himself at a flurry of shots, tipping a fierce shot from Sam Higgins onto the bar and snuffing out other chances.

But we couldn’t hold out. A quick free-kick down the left put Ade Yusuff in behind our back line, and he squared the ball for Ellis Brown to give Hornchurch a close-range equaliser.

The second half started with a Hornchurch onslaught, with Carey forced to tip over an overhead kick from Higgins within a minute of the restart.

It was tough going for The Rooks, but they were hanging on in there and looking dangerous on the break, no more so than when Razz danced down the right-hand side. Twice he cut it back from the byline, only to find nobody else on his wavelength.

Credit to Tony, his substitutions were positive. Pritchard replaced Young, and then the irrepressible Gondoh came on for a tiring Razz. And it was The Great Gondoh who poked us back in front with 13 remaining. Moore again put in the cross, but this one seemed to evade everyone in the box before Gondoh arrived to smash it home. Cue scenes.

Taking the lead 13 from minutes from time was about 13 minutes too soon, though. “We’ve scored too early,” said Big Deaks and sadly he was right.

We could have wrapped it up. The game had only just restarted when Tyrique Hyde got put clean through. He shrugged off the attentions of the defender brilliantly and bore down on goal, but his low shot was well saved by Lamar Jospeh-Johnson.

The subsequent equaliser was as sickening as it was inevitable. A Hornchurch corner on the left was whipped into the near post where Higgins rose unchallenged to nod it home.

A point at Hornchurch isn’t a bad result and we did play well. But with seven points to make up and seven teams to leapfrog if we’re to make the play-offs, we really couldn’t afford to leave those extra two points behind like they were Millwall fan offspring.

Lewes: Carey, Tamplin, Mundle-Smith, Salmon, Champion, Olukoga, Hyde, Young, Coleman De-Graft, Moore, Taylor

Subs: Gondoh, Murrell-Williamson, Pritchard

Supporters Club man of the match: Close-run thing between Carey and Tamplin, but we’re giving it to the debut boy, who looked very impressive despite seemingly playing out of position