Hornchurch title hopes dented after Grays loss
14:00 02 March 2014
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Ryman Premier: AFC Hornchurch 1 Grays Athletic 2
Grays took the bragging rights at Bridge Avenue as two first half goals consigned Hornchurch to a painful defeat that seriously dents their chances of winning the Ryman Premier Division,
Billy Coyne was able to pull one back but Urchins were not able to beat Grays keeper Lloyd Anderson despite a number of second half efforts.
Grays started well and Joao Carlos nearly gave them lead after just three minutes as he ran on to Leon Lalite’s throughball but his chip past Inigo Echepare hit the post.
Hornchurch welcomed back Chris Bourne and he immediately made himself unpopular with the away faithful following a strong challenge on Lee Flynn.
Frankie Curley might have given Urchins the lead soon after but he headed Joey May’s corner wide.
A minute later it would prove decisive as Grays were awarded a penalty after Elliot Styles was adjudged to have handed inside the box.
Styles clearance ricocheted off his own team-mate, two yards away and hit his hand, with the referee Graham Kane deeming it deliberate handball.
Dagenham & Redbridge loanee Joel Nouble made no mistake from the spot as he slotted past Echepare to give the visitors the lead with just 11 minutes played.
The neutral could sense it was a derby occasion with Styles and Lalite crunching into each other with a tremendous 50/50 tackle and moments later Bourne and Grays’ Craig Pope had a coming together.
The referee was putting in a questionable performance beforehand and then felt the brunt of the Urchins fans when he booked Curley for what appeared a perfectly legal tackle. Even Grays players were asking the man in black to stop ruining the game.
From the following free-kick awarded against Curley, Ruddock Yala somehow missed from a few yards out.
Hornchurch tried in vain to extinguish the lead and just as they were enjoying their best passage of pressure Grays grabbed a second.
Dave Rainford let his assured display slip for a moment when he committed himself and Nouble skipped clear before cutting back for Carlos to sweetly strike home.
George Purcell could have responded immediately but volleyed wide and then with the last action of the half Michael Spencer dragged another effort wide.
Unsurprisingly Hornchurch started the second period much stronger and Purcell fired over before right-back Coyne halved the deficit.
Coyne carried the ball forward unchallenged before firing low and hard into the net in the 54th minute from 25 yards.It was all Hornchurch now and Purcell nearly equalised but Grays keeper Anderson parried his effort and Ryan Kirby cleared with Stefan Payne lurking.
Carl Rook was soon introduced but it was Purcell v Anderson again as the forward jinked past two before his nemesis saved.
The Hornchurch management were becoming increasingly frustrated with Grays keeper Anderson for taking an age with his kicking before they played their final hand by introducing Sam Lechmere.
And with four minutes remaining Lechmere nearly forced an equaliser but he drove just wide from the edge.
Four minutes were added on and with one remaining Payne was stopped in his tracks racing onto a throughball by Kirby, who had blocked the striker and earned himself a booking in the process.
That free-kick won Hornchurch a corner and their hopes rested on the set piece.
It was cleared to Purcell on the edge but he was unable to find the net as Anderson parried his shot and although Payne smashed in he was offside and with that decision Urchins’ eighth league defeat of the season was confirmed.
Hornchurch: Echepare, Starkey, Coyne, Styles, Rainford, Curley, Spencer (Lechmere 79), May (Rook 64), Payne, Purcell, Bourne (Eyong 54).