Hornchurch have to draw positives
PUBLISHED: 14:30 10 April 2017
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Play-off place secured as rivals clinch title
Brightlingsea beat Romford on Saturday and are now Ryman North champions, while Hornchurch beat Waltham Abbey and we are now certain to participate in the play-offs.
Both Brightlingsea are ourselves have only lost seven matches this season, but the difference is in the amount of drawn games as Regent have drawn six times, while we have 13, and that is why they are champions and we are not.
We looked to be heading for yet another draw at Abbey until captain Elliot Styles, in his 495th game for the Urchins, headed the only goal of the game six minutes from time.
It was a match that manager Jim MacFarlane felt should not have started, as the state of the pitch was such that it was almost unplayable, and we spent much of the first half trying to overcome the bumps, ruts and dust.
If the ball was played along the ground it was a matter of chance where it would end up, and misplaced passes was the order of the first half.
We went into the match with an ever-growing injury list, without Nathan Cooper, Usman Adeniji, Abs Thompson, Paul Goodacre and Joey May. And we can add Tobi Joseph to that list, as he had another operation on his leg, and will now be on the sidelines for several months.
When we lost Sam Bantick, who limped off in the first half, we began to wonder if this was not going to be our day.
We performed much better after the interval, playing down the slope towards the allotment end of the ground, and thought we had taken the lead six minutes into the second period, when Leon McKenzie hooked the ball into the net, but the goal was ruled out for offside.
George Purcell came on and we piled on the pressure, with the home defence in disarray, as was evidenced when their goalkeeper rushed out of his area to leave George flattened on the ground, with a tackle that was worthy of an American football player!
It was also worthy of a yellow card, although many were calling for a red.
Purcell’s free kick hit a defender and went out for a corner, which led to further delays as George was booked and we introduced Saam Pishvaie as substitute.
The corner eventually came over a couple of minutes later, and Kenzer Lee’s shot was deflected onto the bar and out for another corner.
Both Styles and Lee lurked at the far post, Teddy Nesbitt sent the ball into the goalmouth and it was our captain who powered his header into the net for the only goal of the match.
Pishvaie has been with us for some time, but we had to wait for international clearance from his previous club. Earlier this season he played for Spanish club UD San Pedro (Málaga), before signing for Girona in January, and his clearance only came through a couple of weeks ago.
We remain third in the table, three points behind Maldon & Tiptree, and if we keep winning, we are guaranteed at least one home match in the play-offs, but we have to hope that Maldon drop points if we want to finish as runners up.
We have two crucial games coming up over Easter, starting at Bridge Avenue on Saturday with a visit from Phoenix Sports, who themselves are in a play-off position.
When we travelled to Phoenix in September, they were top of the table, and the result was a 1-1 draw, with our goal coming from JJ Da Cruz.
Our team on that day was markedly different from the one that took the field at Waltham Abbey last week, as only four of our starting line-up appeared in both matches.
On Easter Monday we travel to Aveley, who hope to play at their new ground next season. It is just off the Aveley by-pass but there seems to be still a lot of work required if they intend to start the new season at their new 3G home.
We beat Aveley in the FA Cup at the start of the season, with Abs Thompson scoring the only goal of the game. And we won 3-1 in our Christmas fixture, with two goals from McKenzie and another from Lee.
This match is likely to attract a much larger then usual crowd, as it is their last-ever match at Mill Field, and we expect to take our largest away following of the season to this one, which is always a popular match with our supporter.