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Ryman Premier: Hornchurch 1 Billericay 2

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Hornchurch lost a hotly contested Boxing Day derby with Billericay, despite the visitors being reduced to nine men late in the second period, as both teams put on an entertaining show in front of 444 fans.

Ricky Sappleton scored twice for Blues before George Purcell pulled one back on the stroke of half time.

And despite plenty of Urchins endeavor in a much improved second half, the visitors held on for the win.

The Bridge Avenue pitched survived an early inspection to get the clash ahead and it was Billericay who started stronger.

They took the lead when Michael Spencer came through the back of Josh Ekim inside the box and a spot-kick was correctly awarded.

Sappleton stepped up and dispatched the penalty superbly to make it 1-0 to the visitors and he wasn’t finished there as minutes after his opener he doubled Billericay’s advantage.

Dave Collis’ scuffed shot was flicked up fantastically by Sappleton before the powerful forward sent an overhead kick past Inigo Echepare into the net.

Hornchurch needed to improve and Dave Rainford headed a free-kick wide, but their first chance of note did not come until 43 minutes had been played.

With half-time approaching Urchins needed a moment of inspiration and they certainly got it from Purcell.

Starkey and Rainford linked up before the former’s cross was headed out to Purcell and the forward set himself before firing into the top corner.

Hornchurch had their tails up and were calling for a red card before the break when Blues captain Richard Halle caught Purcell late, but a yellow card was awarded.

The second half started well for the hosts but they couldn’t seriously test William Lumley in Billericay’s goal and, despite a flurry of corners, they failed to turn a lengthy spell of pressure into a goal.

The visitors stood strong and Halle headed wide before he was given his marching orders with 17 minutes remaining for a blatant handball.

Billericay substitute Junior Luke pulled down Frankie Curley and was booked, despite it being his first offence, as the hosts piled the pressure on once again.

Sam Lechmere and Carl Rook were sent on for Urchins and their cause was boosted when Luke, like his captain, picked up a second yellow and received his marching orders.

Hornchurch hit the post after Stefan Payne crossed from the byline and Rook headed a tough chance against the woodwork from a few yards out.

Six minutes were added on to give Urchins hope of forcing an equaliser, but the visitors looked to run the clock down at every opportunity.

Rook and Payne headed half-chances wide for Hornchurch and Billericay held on for a deserved win which sparked wild celebrations at the final whistle.

Defeat left Urchins in third place, four points behind leaders Wealdstone after their win at Enfield Town, and Jimmy McFarlane’s men will look to end 2013 on a better note when they visit Bury on Saturday.

Hornchurch: Echepare, Starkey (Lechmere 80), Bentley, Styles, Hayles, Curley, Bremner (Rook), Rainford, Payne, Purcell, Spencer.

*Romford’s Ryman Division One North clash with landlords Thurrock was postponed after the Ship Lane pitch failed a morning inspection.

Boro are due to host Erith & Belvedere on Saturday, but with more bad weather forecast that fixture too could be in doubt.

Paul Martin’s men are set to welcome Aveley on New Year’s Day.

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