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Ryman Premier: Bury Town 3 Hornchurch 2

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Hornchurch ended 2013 on a losing note after a difficult day in Suffolk.

And defeat left the long-time leaders in fourth place, four points behind table-topping Wealdstone – who lost 3-1 at home to Hampton – heading into the new year.

Beaten 2-1 at home on Boxing Day by Essex rivals Billericay, who ended the derby with nine men, Urchins were held up en route to Ram Meadow due to an accident on the A12.

Kick-off was delayed until 3.15pm as a result and the visitors were caught cold when play did get underway as Bury struck twice inside the first 12 minutes.

It might have been different had Urchins themselves opened the scoring on three minutes when George Purcell broke on the left and picked out Stefan Payne, who volleyed over from eight yards.

But Bury broke the deadlock with eight minutes played when Billy Clark escaped the attentions of Elliot Styles and found Jordan Patrick, whose shot was saved by Inigo Echepare before the ball looped up invitingly for Clark to head home.

And a second goal arrived four minutes later when Daniel Cunningham sent a free-kick from halfway into the Hornchurch box and Joe Whight’s header looped over Echepare to find the net.

Shellshocked Urchins rallied, with Frankie Curley firing over when a free-kick was only half cleared.

And Jimmy McFarlane’s men were denied a reply by a superb save from Marcus Garnham, after Purcell’s cross fell kindly for Tambeson Eyong and his point-blank effort was blocked by the Bury keeper.

Patrick sent a low drive just past the post when another Cunningham free-kick caused problems for Hornchurch, who saw Eyong and Styles booked just past the half-hour mark.

And Garnham thwarted Payne just before the break to protect Bury’s two-goal lead and leave Urchins with much to do in the second period.

The visitors were given a lift within two minutes of the restart, though, as Payne halved the deficit with his 14th goal of the season.

But their joy was shortlived as Alex Bentley headed into his own net from a Bury free-kick to restore the home side’s two-goal margin on 52 minutes.

McFarlane sent striker Carl Rook on for defender Billy Coyne soon after, searching for another way back into the match.

But his side almost conceded a fourth before the hour as Anthony Roulston just failed to connect from Clark’s cross.

The visitors forced a succession of corners midway through the half, but nothing came of them as frustrations grew.

And hopes of salvaging anything from the game looked all but up when Dave Rainford sent a great chance wide from 12 yards on 75 minutes.

But after Urchins twice had the ball in the net, only to see the efforts ruled out for offside, they pulled to within one again in the last minute of normal time as Payne grabbed his second.

It was little consolation, though, and Urchins, who are without a game on New Year’s Day, will look to bounce back when they take on struggling Cray, who shipped six goals against Dulwich, next Saturday.

Hornchurch: Echepare, Coyne (Rook 54), Bentley, Styles, Hayles, Curley, Eyong (Bremner 74), Rainford, Payne, Purcell, Spencer. Unused subs: May, Lechmere, Starkey.

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