Bostik North: Hornchurch 1 Maldon & Tiptree 0
PUBLISHED: 08:21 06 December 2017 | UPDATED: 08:21 06 December 2017
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Hornchurch stretched their lead at the top of the Bostik North table to seven points with a slender victory over 10-man Maldon at Bridge Avenue.
Centre-back Nathan Cooper scored his fourth goal in six matches – and his second matchwinner in the space of a few days – with a second-half finish to give the Urchins all three points against tough opposition.
And Urchins completed the double over their Essex rivals having won the reverse fixture 2-1 in September with Leon McKenzie and Brad Warner getting their names on the scoresheet.
The home side had George Purcell and Olumide Oluwatimilehin back in the line-up having missed Saturday’s victory against Sudbury through suspension, with Sean Roberts and McKenzie the players to be replaced.
Kenzer Lee was out injured and was replaced by debutant Nathan Livings, who had signed at the weekend having previously been at Harlow.
Danish ‘keeper Simon Bloch continued to deputise in goal for the injured Sam Mott, having kept two clean sheets in succession with the Urchins keeping five in their previous six matches.
Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe was undoubtedly the main threat for last season’s play-off finalists as, despite missing a late penalty for the Jammers against Canvey Island at the weekend, he had scored in 15 successive league games and had 29 goals in all competitions so far this season.
The first half was one of few chances although the visitors had the majority of the ball in the final third and worried the Hornchurch back four with a fierce cross across the face of goal, but no-one was on the other end of it.
The first bit of work that either ‘keeper had to do came in the 12th minute when Dominic Kurasik pulled off a fine save down to his right following Purcell’s volley at the near post from Jay Porter’s cross.
The striker managed to get in front of his marker only for the Jammers’ number one to frustrate him.
At the other end, Maldon were seeing their efforts fall straight into the hands of Hornchurch’s giant goalkeeper who had little to do, but was left as a spectator as Junir Ogedi-Uzokwe’s long-range effort crashed off the crossbar during first half stoppage time.
Urchins were forced into a substitution during the break as Bloch had suffered a head injury during the first half when diving to claim a low cross, colliding with an onrushing attacker in the process.
Manager Jim McFarlane was left with no choice but to take the six foot 10 inch keeper off, although the Dane visibly wanted to carry on having run over to his goal to start the second half.
Bloch was replaced by midfielder Dave Collis and Hornchurch improved during the second half, with Purcell having numerous chances to open the scoring for the leaders but again being denied by Kurasik.
Brad Warner’s low cross from the left found an open Purcell at close range and it appeared to be a tap-in for the Urchins top-scorer only for Kurasik to block the shot out for a corner, which eventually found Purcell on the edge of the box only for his strike to go inches over the bar and hit the stanchion behind the goal.
Hornchurch began to pepper Kurasik’s goal and Warner was the next player to try his luck, with his fierce effort stinging the palms of Kurasik at his near post from the left corner of the box.
A minute later, it was Purcell again as he controlled the ball with his left foot, turning to face goal, with his effort once again went inches over the bar.
Maldon’s evening was to become even tougher when left-back Joe Claridge was shown a straight red card on 62 minutes for a professional foul on pacey winger Matthias Fanimo, who was bound to have been clear through on goal if it hadn’t been for Claridge bringing him down midway through the Jammers’ half.
Maldon never looked like scoring after that and Hornchurch looked even more threatening, with Fanimo a nuisance with his pace and vigour, enduring a lung bursting run down the right flank and squaring to Theo Fairweather-Johnson, whose low shot went just wide of the far post.
On 70 minutes, the Urchins finally made the breakthrough as Warner’s low corner was met by defender Cooper who leapt and flicked the ball with his right foot over the packed goalmouth and into the bottom right corner of the net for his sixth goal of the campaign.
The match-winner could have doubled Hornchurch’s lead five minutes later as he found himself free inside the six-yard box only for this free header to sky over the bar, much to Maldon’s relief.
The result means Hornchurch are now seven points clear of second-placed Dereham having played three games less, with a trip to fourth-placed Canvey Island up next on Saturdayu.
Hornchurch: Bloch (Collis 46), Bentley, Cooper, Styles, Porter, Oluwatimilehin, Livings (Hursit 85), Fanimo, Fairweather-Johnson (McKenzie 88), Warner, Purcell. Unused Subs: Joseph, Chouman.
Referee: Jamaal Horne.