Hornchurch blog: Large following disappointed at Brightlingsea
PUBLISHED: 16:00 04 April 2017
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For coach drivers, any trip to Brightlingsea Regent is not one to relish, as they cannot manoeuvre the coach down the maze of narrow streets as you approach the ground, with ninety degree turns and cars parked on both sides.
Saturday was no exception, and the team coach had to drop the team and supporters in a small cul-de-sac on the far side of the ground, and everyone had to walk across the pitch to get to the changing rooms and social club.
For those who drove, it was not quite so awkward, apart from the narrow roads and the lack of signposting, but most managed to get down ‘wing mirror alley’ and find the small car park at the end of the road.
We took a large following to Brightlingsea, and the match was watched by their best league attendance of the season, but any remaining hopes we had of winning the title disappeared as the home wide won by two goals to one.
We were without Kenzer Lee and Nathan Cooper, both on the injured list, and manager Jim McFarlane included Sam Bantick in the starting line up.
Bantick, who was signed shortly before the transfer deadline, started in senior football when he played for Hornchurch in 2011, making sixteen appearances in our Capital League side.
He was included in the first team squad ten times, although his only playing appearance was at Colchester in December 2011, when he came on as substitute for Martin Tuohy.
After leaving Hornchurch he had several spells at Brentwood Town, scoring 22 goals in his 85 appearances.
Last season he was at Concord Rangers, scoring one goal in 27 appearances. This season he was ever present in the AFC Sudbury line up, with thirteen goals in 48 appearances.
The result was a big disappointment for the large away following, especially as the opening goal was conceded in farcical circumstances, when an Alex Bentley clearance cannoned off John Easterford and the ball landed at the feet of a surprised and very grateful Brightlingsea player, who promptly deposited it into the back of the net.
We could have no complaints about the second goal, one of the best of the season, when the scorer turned inside of Elliot Styles and volleyed home from a very acute angle.
Leon McKenzie, who had missed the last two games with a chest infection, started on the bench, but came on for the final 25 minutes and it was McKenzie who converted a Bentley centre to give us hopes of a come-back.
But Brightlingsea held out and are now heading towards the Premier Division, though they may find it difficult to cope with the larger crowds, in a ground lacking in terracing and surrounded by houses, and with only a minimum amount of seated accommodation.
Although it passed unnoticed at the time, Leon McKenzie’s powerful header in the first minute of stoppage time was his 50th goal for Hornchurch, and his 35th of the season.
Earlier in the season there was no one to back him up when it came to scoring, but we now have Ross Wall and Martin Tuohy in our line up, and George Purcell is now back in contention after missing most of the season with injuries.
We are five points adrift of second placed Maldon & Tiptree, so will need to take maximum points from our remaining matches, and hope that Maldon drop points, if we want to take second position in the table, and ensure home advantage in the play-offs.
Thurrock are two points behind us, and Phoenix currently occupy the final play-off place.
Our next match is at Waltham Abbey on Saturday. Abbey need the points to ensure their own safety in the league, but we hope we can do better than we did last season, when we lost by the only goal of the match thanks to a defensive error.
We played them at Bridge Avenue in January and goals from Ross Wall, McKenzie and Jed Chouman gave us a comfortable three goal win.
We anticipate once again a large volume of support from the terraces, and we are optimistic that we can get our play-off hopes back on schedule.
There is one match at Bridge Avenue this week, when our reserve team play Thamsmead Town on Thursday, kick off at 7.45 pm.
And it is congratulations to our Youth Alliance team, who beat Boreham Wood 3-0 on Wednesday last. With two matches left to play, they are now ten points ahead at the top of the table, and cannot now be caught.