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George Sessions at Bridge Avenue
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Essex Senior Cup semi-final: AFC Hornchurch 1 Braintree Town 1 (Braintree Town win 5-4 on penalties)
Hornchurch were seven minutes away from a place in the Essex Senior Cup final but a late Braintree goal ensured Urchins hearts were broken as they lost 5-4 in a titanic penalty shoot-out.
Stefan Payne had given them the lead midway through the second half and they appeared to be holding on especially with the visitors reduced to10 men but it wasn’t to be for Jimmy McFarlane’s side as they conceded late on before exiting on penalties.
Braintree boasted a near enough full strength team, with nine players in from the off that started their last league game against Woking.
It was the visitors that had the early efforts, Sean Marks firing over the bar in the first minute before Urchins captain Elliot Styles blocked Jordan Cox’s goalbound strike.
Cox maybe should have given Braintree the lead just past the quarter hour mark but after turning inside the box his effort was deflected wide.
Leigh Bremner, who was enjoying one of his best games in a Hornchurch shirt, then forced the first booking as he skipped past two players before Sam Habergham took him down and was cautioned.
The Iron then went close again, and perhaps should have takenthe lead, when Cox and Marks linked up.
Cox flicked on to his strike partner but Billy Coyne came across to block, before it fell nicely for Cox but he sliced over the bar.
The half drew to a close with George Purcell getting a shot off from outside the area, it was going well wide but hit Payne before trickling past the post.
Braintree’s Cox was involved again at the start of the second half as he teed up Kenny Davis but Alex Bentley blocked his effort and Hornchurch regrouped.
It was Cox’s strike partner Marks who was involved minutes later as he dribbled into the box and appeared to be brought down by Frankie Curley but no penalty was given.
An eventful seven minutes then occurred as Payne firstly had a weak shot saved before he should have given Hornchurch the lead.
Purcell and Coyne combined with the latter playing Payne through on goal but with only Nick Hamann to beat his shot wasn’t precise enough and it was well saved.
Braintree’s Kenny Davis was then bizarrely given a straight red card despite his team having a free-kick, presumably for foul and abusive language.
And Payne then made up for his previous misses by opening the scoring for Hornchurch, with a lovely composed finish.
Bremner was predictably involved, racing down the left before squaring for Payne to slot into the bottom corner.
Purcell had a decent chance to double the lead but lost his bearings after being put under pressure by the visitors keeper.
It would come back to make Urchins pay as the double substitution made by Braintree manager Alan Devonshire after Payne’s goal proved crucial.
Substitutes Ben Long and Dan Holman combined with the latter chesting down before poking home with just seven minutes remaining to ensure penalties followed.
Urchins were always behind the eight ball in the shoot out as Payne missed first up, though Purcell levelled things before Coyne fired over the bar.
Inigo Echepare then produced an outstanding save, tipping over Marks’ effort but despite Michael Spencer, Joey May and Elliot Styles scoring Phil Starkey missed crucially with the spot kicks into sudden death.
It was left for Braintree’s Ryan Peters to convert the 14th penalty and send his side into the Essex Senior Cup final and leave a valiant Hornchurch dejected.
Hornchurch: Echepare, Coyne, Bentley (Spencer 86), Styles, Hayles, Curley, May, Starkey, Payne, Purcell, Bremner (Eyong 86).