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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 December, 2003, 07:59 GMT
Hornchurch hope for Cup shock
by Pete Oliver

As shocks go, a victory for Ryman's League side Hornchurch against Second Division Tranmere Rovers would, at first glance, rank pretty high on the list of FA Cup upsets.

But dig a little deeper, and Saturday's second-round tie might be more evenly matched that many would suspect.

Hornchurch celebrate their victory in the last round
Hornchurch are hoping to celebrate again at the weekend

Not only are Hornchuch challenging for promotion to the Nationwide Conference, but they are doing so with a full-time playing squad boasting plenty of League experience.

"We are a club that's geared up for success and we felt that going full-time was the best way to try and get success. It's no guarantee, but it gives you the best opportunity," explained chairman Gary Calder.

Calder oversaw the transition when he became chairman and appointed former Aldershot boss George Borg as manager in the summer.

"Things are going okay. We've got a good squad of players and a good team of people and everyone here mucks in," he added.

"The priority is to try and get into the Conference. We are giving it our best shot to go as far as we can go. Where that takes us, I don't know."

We will enjoy Saturday
Hornchurch chairman Gary Calder

With two new stands being developed at the Hornchuch Stadium and a sell-out crowd of 3,500 on the way on Saturday, the potential for progress is evidently there.

But before Borg's men resume their quest to try and reel in Essex neighbours Canvey Island at the top of the table, they face a more immediate way of putting themselves on the map.

Victory over Tranmere, having already knocked out Darlington and three other non-league sides to reach this stage, would take the Urchins into the third round and potential dreamland.

"It's only human nature to think that if we do get through we could be drawn against Arsenal or Manchester United," added Calder.

"But we will enjoy Saturday. If someone had told me on 16 August, when we started our season, that we would be playing Tranmere in the second round of the FA Cup then I would probably have laughed at them. It just shows how good a job we have done."

Under Borg's guidance, Hornchurch have won 15 of their last 19 games, with just one league loss and an Essex Cup defeat to Dagenham and Redbridge during that run.

Hornchurch's Jude Sterling gets to grips with  Darlington's Steve Pearson
Hornchurch's Jude Sterling challenges Darlington's Steve Pearson

Former Dagenham striker Steve West is now a key man for Hornchurch, whose squad also includes ex-QPR and Charlton frontman Bradley Allen, ex-QPR midfielder Mark Graham and former Bristol City, Colchester and Luton defender Adam Locke.

Ex-West Ham, QPR and Northern Ireland midfielder Keith Rowland and a smattering of one-time Southend players, including goalkeeper Daniel Gay are also in contention for Saturday.

It's rich mix for a club at their level, and Calder is not discounting the chance of upsetting the form book, although the matter may be glossed over when he dines with Tranmere directors Lorraine Rogers and Mick Horton in Hornchurch's own restaurant on Friday night.

"It's a big game for both clubs," said Calder.

"We will pay Brian Little and his team the respect they deserve but we have to try and win the game. "We will be fit and organised and if Tranmere aren't we will win the game. That's not an arrogant statement, it's a fact."

Hornchurch 2-0 Darlington
09 Nov 03  |  FA Cup

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