Hornton's home ground at Hornton Sports Pavilion, on the edge of the village, is known as The Cauldron. The pitch sits in a natural bowl in the Oxfordshire countryside, tightly hemmed in on all sides, hence the name.
Parking is quite limited although there are, effectively, two car parks, one at each end of the ground. The smaller one, situated between the tennis courts and the clubhouse building seems to be restricted to players and officials. The main one, signposted off the main road, is down a small single track road and has space for 10 to 20 cars (although that requires a lot of double parking and blocking in). The ground is accessed via a path from the car park that runs down the side of the pitch. The clubhouse is situated at the opposite end from the main car park. There are no dugouts or covered areas around the pitch which is, as I said, tightly closed in by a grass bank on one side and trees on the other. It's great. You feel as if you are part of the action because of the proximity to the pitch. Just inside the ground at the main car park end, there is a sign declaring this to be Terry's Corner. The question is, who is Terry and why is this his corner?
Going into the game, Hornton were sitting on top of the table win nine points from their opening four games. Their only reversal coming in their last league game, which they lost 5-2 at Longford Park. Kings Sutton were n fourth spot, three points behind but having played a game fewer. They were on an unbeaten run since losing their opening game at home to Hardwick Sports.
Last season Hornton finished in sixth spot with Kings Sutton a place below them. Honours were even in the league meetings with Hornton winning 2-1 at home and Sutton winning their home game 5-0. This had been Hornton's first time back in the premier League after finishing second in Division 1 the previous season. Before that, the last league meetings between the clubs had come in the 2018-19 season, when both were in Division 1. Kings Sutton went on to win the league whilst Hornton finished in fourth place. Kings Sutton also held sway in both league meetings, winning 6-0 at home and 4-0 in Hornton. The league title was Sutton's second consecutive promotion after they finished second in Division 2 in 2017-18.
The match started at a fast pace and it was the visitors who got the first strike off in anger. Mark Essex with a snap volley that was met by a very good save from Joe White. A few minutes later it was Hornton who came close to getting off the mark when Dan Hirst's free-kick took a nasty hop right in front of visitor's keepeer Alex Yearsley. He managed to scoop the ball partially away and his defenders did the rest, scrambling it clear.
The game continued apace, play shifting from one end to the other. Essex, who was leading the line well for the visitors, got off another shot just pats the quarter hour mark. Thsistime it went wide without any assitance from White. It was already a really good, open and entertaining game of football but, on 16 minutes, Alex Yearsley treated us to an absolutely incredible piece of goalkeeping. A cross fom the right was met on the volley on the six-yard line only for the Sutton stopper to fling himself to his left, getting a string arm to the ball and diverting it against the bar and out to safety. As it happens the offside flag was already up but that shouldn't take away from the reactions and agility of Yearsley.
Almost exactly halfway through the first period, Horton were awarded a free-kick way out on the left flank, about 30 yards from goal. Teh ball was fizzed into the box, evading everyone apart from Yearsley who managed to turn the bouncing ball over the bar for a corner. From the ensuing set-piece there was a bit of a scrambel in teh box. Kings Sutton were appealing for a free-kick but Steve Walton wasn't listening. He managed to dig the bal out form under his feet , swivel and shoot goalwards. The ball seemed to take a couple of minor deflections on the way, before nestlig in the far corner. 1-0.
Just before the half hour it was almost two when a corner from the left craped the head of David Taylor before being diverted wide for a corner. Any more of a touch from the Hornton midfielder and it would have certainly increased the lead. Taylor disn't have too long to rue hsi miss however, Seven minutes later after Hirst once again stung Yearsley's palms with a free-kcik, the home kept the attack alive on the left before recycling the ball into the box where Taylor Burden was lingering to snap up a simple tap in. 2-0
It had been a pretty even game but Kings Sutton suddenly found themselves two down. They responded almost immediately. A lovely pice of interpassing between Mark Essex and Josh Brooker ended with the latter driving the ball across the six yard box. Several players, both attackers and dfenders, were running toward the goal and thew ball ended up flying into the net. From my viewpoint, it looked like the last touch was off a defender. Whatever the case, it was now 2-1.
Taylor then went close to making it 3-1 but was denied by another good stop from Yearsley. Then in added time of the first-half we had two incidents within a minute that summed up the end to end nature of the game. In the 47th minute Sutton came close to equalising when a long ball was flicked on by Alfie Sheen into the path of MArk Essex. The big striker was at full stretch to get his shot off whioch caused him to lean back and put it over the back. Straight from the goal kick, Hornoton launched a raid of their own. A long ball down the left found Daniel Hirst who got into the Sutton penalty area only to be, once again, thwarted by Yearsley.
HT Hornton 2 Kings Sutton 1. A superb game of football. The last couple of incidents summed up the nature of the game. End to end stuff from two teams determined to go for all three points.
Big thanks to referee Scott Cuthbert, who I had spoken to just before kick-off, for letting me take photos of both team sheets during the half-time break.
Just before the hour mark Hornton, who were starting to wind up the pressure, had a big shout for a penalty. From my vantage point, I have to say it was a definite case of "I've seen them given" as the ball clearly struck a defenders hand. However, the defender was very close to where the ball was struck and probably had no chance to get out of the way. His arm was not outstretched and it was a case of ball to hand. Secondly, although I had a good view from the side-line, I doubt very much if the referee had a clear view through a throng of players. Either way, nothing was given. Undeterred, Hornton kept up the pressure and a minute later Hirst continued his private battle with Yearsley. The Hornton number 14 latched onto a loose ball on the edge of the area, striking a lovely curling effort toward the far post. It looked goal-bound until Yearsley went full stretch to his left to get a hand to the ball. Another great save.
The incidents continued a minute later when the visitors found themselves temporarily down to ten after Josh Brooker was sent to the sin-bin. His frustration was clear after he appeared to be fouled and nothing was given but his comment to the referee was always going to end in a yellow. Oddly, Sutton then went on to dominate possession for the next five minutes or so, although they didn't manage to worry White. With just under twenty minutes remaining the Hirst/Yearsley show continued. Hirst broke clear down the left but was stopped by another good save from his glove-wearing nemesis.
A defensive lapse on 81 minutes almost gifted Kings Sutton an equaliser when a free-kick was lofted into the home penalty area. For once, their defence failed to deal with it and the ball fell to Ned Primrose inside the penalty area. His snapshot was on target but Joe White did well to save with his feet. Danger averted.
There were a lot of tired legs out there, on both sides, now but Dan Hirst was still full of running. His 87th minute burst down the left put him clear of the Sutton defence but his shot went well over. A minute later the same player went on another, driving at the heart of the visitor's defence, avoiding two challenges to create an opening for a shot which he couldn't quite get hold of making it easy for Yearsley to block. The game was still in the balance as we entered added time but , two minutes in the home side sealed the points. There was a bit of pinball in the Sutton penalty area before the ball was finally put over the line. By this time I had taken up a position at the other end of the ground and it was almost impossible to see who got the final touch. Was it sub Freddie Whitton or had Hirst finally got the better of Yearsley? Whoever got the touch, it was certainly game over this time. 3-1
FT Hornton 3 Kings Sutton 1. A very hard earned three points for the league leaders. Pushed all the way by a very combative Kings Sutton team. Two teams who only had eyes for victory. Fabulous game for a neutral to watch and sparkling advert for the league.
Hornton stay on top, now three points clear of Hardwick Sports who beat SWIS 5-0. Glory Farm, who were second before play started, went down 3-1 to Deddington Town who leapfrog Kings Sutton into fifth place. Next weekend both sides face games against newly promoted teams. Hornton travel to Byfield Road where they take on second from bottom Woodford United. Kings Sutton are back at home to face SWIS, who are level on points with them but one place below on goal difference.
Hornton: White, Lee, Thorpe, Jordan, Richards, Sabin, Wacton, Taylor, Smith, Hirst, Burden. Subs: England, Herd, Lynes, Whitton, Hillman
Kings Sutton: Yearlsey, Bridge, Axtell, Butler-Lines, Primrose, Phillips, Garrard, A.Sheen, Brooker, F.Sheen, Essex. Subs: J.Phillips, Harrison, Seamack
Ground Number: 382