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Hornchurch youngsters edged out in Essex Cup final

PUBLISHED: 16:36 27 March 2017 | UPDATED: 16:36 27 March 2017

Hornchurch Urchins under-12s face the camera at the Essex Cup final (pic ponderosapics.photoshelter.com)

Hornchurch Urchins under-12s face the camera at the Essex Cup final (pic ponderosapics.photoshelter.com)

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Canvey Island 1 Hornchurch Urchins 0

A Canvey player takes on the Hornchurch defence during the Essex under-12 Cup final (pic ponderosapics.photoshelter.com) A Canvey player takes on the Hornchurch defence during the Essex under-12 Cup final (pic ponderosapics.photoshelter.com)

Canvey Island (Whites) boss Richard Pankhurst likened his squad’s achievement in winning the Essex under-12s Cup final against Hornchurch Urchins (Reds) to Leicester City’s 2016 Premier League triumph.

Adam Pankhurst’s strike, midway through the second period, was the only goal of a gripping game at Burnham Ramblers, after Canvey goalkeeper Daniel Johnson and his defence had repeatedly kept Hornchurch at bay.

And the manager was proud of his entire team, who compete in the second tier of the Southend & District Junior Sunday League, saying: “It’s unbelievable. We didn’t start the season expecting to get this far, we don’t even play in the Premier Division.

“But it’s been a season for the underdog with Leicester winning the Premier League and Canvey Island under-12s winning the County Cup! The boys have been fantastic all the way through the competition.

“They have progressed and got better and better and I’m pleased for them. I’m pleased for the club as well, because it’s only the third time in 34 years that Canvey Island Youth have won a County Cup in any age group. It’s fantastic for us, it’s fantastic for the club but, most importantly, it’s fantastic for the boys.”

Hornchurch, of the Echo Junior League Premier Division, lived up to their billing as pre-match favourites as they benefitted from the wind at their backs in the first half.

Jeremy Obi dragged a shot wide of the left post at the end of a surging 12th-minute run and two minutes later, he sent a spectacular bicycle kick inches wide from Henry Tutton’s pass.

After a quarter of an hour Hornchurch’s Joshua Johnson beat a defender on the outside before flashing an effort across the face of goal, but the Urchins were indebted to shot-stopper Bradley Wilson-Fowler in the 18th minute when he brilliantly prevented Pankhurst from half-volleying a Harry Goodall centre into the net.

Daniel Johnson replicated his counterpart’s feats shortly afterwards when he saved another Obi attempt and, as half time approached, he produced a fine double stop to thwart the Urchins.

Firstly the gloveman pushed away Obi’s effort through a crowded penalty area and then he tipped a Nichols strike around the post at full stretch. Even in stoppage time Canvey stood firm with a George Bovill shot deflected wide and Johnson saving Tutton’s long-range effort.

Although the second period began with Bovill stabbing into Johnson’s gloves, Canvey also gave notice of their attacking intentions with Pankhurst forcing an error from Wilson-Fowler, who recovered quickly to swipe the ball from the feet of Harrison Saggers.

Desperate Canvey defending somehow protected Johnson’s goal when Obi and Bovill both tried to prod home from Antoine Arubi’s hooked centre, and Bovill then whipped a shot over at the near post as a Henry Lynch corner caused anxiety for the Gulls.

Seconds later Bovill went close again, this time seeing his shot blocked after fine work by Obi on the left-hand side.

Despite all their pressure, Hornchurch were stunned in the 45th minute when Pankhurst reacted swiftly to a fine opportunity to score.

A lofted ball forwards caused hesitancy in the Urchins backline, and Pankhurst capitalised to sweep the ball underneath Wilson-Fowler and into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.

“We knew that if we just hung in there and stayed in the game, then a chance would come our way,” said Pankhurst.

“Eventually it did and it fell to our striker, and he put the ball in the back of the net. After that it ebbed and flowed nicely, and we couldn’t be happier.

“I think the goal came at the right time. We were on top and we got the goal, and we were able to hold onto it. If we hadn’t got the goal, who knows how the game would’ve gone?

“Hornchurch finished extremely strongly and we had to make sure we held in there and got bodies behind the ball. Everybody had to do their job.”

Although Hornchurch did come back impressively, the closest they came to equalising was a swinging 25-yard free kick from set-piece specialist Lynch which required an agile save from Johnson, flying to his left-hand side.

Meanwhile, at the other end, a speculative Kieron Miles effort from distance landed onto the roof of the net.

As the match neared its conclusion, it was Canvey who looked more likely to extend their advantage than Hornchurch were to cancel it out.

Pankhurst was denied a second goal by a fine Joe McCarthy block and, in the final minute, the forward glanced a header wide from Goodall’s corner. But, by then, the Gulls had done enough to secure the silverware.

“We’re absolutely amazed. We’re so pleased for the boys. We didn’t come here expecting to win, but we had a game plan,” exclaimed Pankhurst.

“We knew what we wanted to achieve, and the boys went out there and did it for us. Hornchurch are a fantastic team. We knew all about them and what a great group of boys Gary [Clancy] has got there. They pushed us all the way, and on another day it could quite easily have gone the other way.

“Today was our day, unfortunately for them, but they will get other opportunities. It was tough in the windy conditions and extremely difficult in the first half trying to play into the wind, but in the second half we came on strong.

“These boys have come such a long way in such a short period of time, and I’m so emotional for them. They’ve worked really hard; not just the boys, but the coaching team and the parents as well. It’s been a real team effort.”

Canvey Island (Whites): Daniel Johnson, Alfie Mason, Elby Nichols, Matthew Slater, Adam Pankhurst, Kieron Miles, Harry Goodall, Harley Gray, Cialen Johnson. Substitutes (repeated): Michael Kokogo, Harrison Saggers.

Hornchurch Urchins (Reds): Bradley Wilson-Fowler, Connor Bailey, Joshua Johnson, Henry Tutton, Joe Clancy, Jamie McSweeney, Jeremy Obi, Henry Lynch, Charlie Jubba. Substitutes (repeated): George Bovill, Joe McCarthy, Antoine Arubi.

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