Hornchurch duo sink Bath
- Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGSPHOTO
Hornchurch 2 Bath 1
Urchins ended a 10-game winless run in Conference South to claim three vital points and climb out of the relegation zone at Bridge Avenue.
Second-half goals from dependable strike duo Martin Tuohy and Lewis Smith gave the Conference South strugglers their first league victory of 2013, the last having come against Billericay on December 29.
And it was no more than Jimmy McFarlane’s men deserved after a spirited display which belied their lowly position in the table.
The home side welcomed Rickie Hayles back into the centre of their defence, following his return from Canvey and the departure of Paul Goodacre and unavailability of injured Reiss Noel.
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But barely two minutes had been played when a long throw-in from the diminutive Kerry Morgan was cleared only as far as Marc Canham, whose shot was clawed down from under his crossbar by Joe Woolley.
Good work from Chris Bourne on the left earned the hosts the first corner of the match on six minutes and Joey May’s deep delivery reached Elliot Styles, whose scuffed effort was blocked and cleared.
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Woolley raced off his line to save well with his legs to deny Ryan Charles on 12 minutes, after Morgan had nudged the ball past Alex Bentley when a hopeful long ball caught Urchins a bit square.
And Charles also flashed a right-footed shot high and wide, having been forced away from goal by Styles, before Woolley was quickly out to the edge of his box to smother another effort, as the big striker looked to get in on the right side.
Urchins had the first real chance of the game on 17 minutes when Smith played Tuohy into the box, only for his shot to drift wide of the far post after a slight touch from Jason Mellor.
There was another half chance soon after when Bourne’s deep cross from the left was turned back by Tuohy at the far post, but Michael Spencer could not connect from eight yards out.
Smith won a free-kick on the right, after drawing a foul from Bath’s Gethin Jones, but Urchins could not capitalise from the set-piece and Smith’s shot from Tuohy’s lay-off lacked the power to trouble the visiting defence.
Mellor thwarted Frankie Curley from a Hornchurch corner on 35 minutes, as the Urchins midfielder looked to hook the ball goalwards.
But the hosts had to thank the woodwork moments later as Danny Ball’s left-footed effort from 25 yards beat the diving Woolley and thudded back off an upright.
Urchins rallied, with the lively Tuohy creating a good chance for strike partner Kieron St Aimie, only for Mellor to deflect his attempt past the post.
But the scoreline remained blank at the break, after Hayles glanced a header wide from a corner and Styles needed patching up after a bang on the nose.
Urchins began the second half brightly, with St Aimie heading on Woolley’s long kick before Tuohy fired a left-footed shot over.
But St Aimie missed a superb chance to break the deadlock on 50 minutes, after Smith played him into space on the left, as he flashed a low, left-footed drive beyond the far post.
St Aimie saw a shot on the turn deflected behind for a corner soon after, following more probing work from Smith as Urchins gained momentum.
May blazed over from 20 yards, after working himself into space, but the home supporters in a crowd of 340 were suitably encouraged, before Smith was left writhing in agony in the box just before the hour.
The Hornchurch striker was holding his right knee, claiming Jones had stamped on him, and needed lengthy treatment from physio Peter Thain.
St Aimie glanced a header over from May’s inswinging corner, after Smith limped back into the action.
But Bath went close when Morgan cut in from the left and saw his shot deflected into the side netting by Spencer.
Smith drew another foul on the left but May’s dangerous ball into the box could not find a teammate and the visitors survived.
The respite was brief for Bath, though, as St Aimie – proving a handful for the visiting defence – won possession 30 yards out and May played in Smith on the right, for a tempting cross which Tuohy prodded past Mellor for his 13th goal of the season.
It was well deserved for Hornchurch, with only a quarter of the match remaining.
But their joy was shortlived as Woolley spilled a corner from the right and Charlie Griffin stabbed home to level on 72 minutes.
Urchins regrouped, though, and regained the lead with 11 minutes left as St Aimie touched the ball off to Smith, who picked out Tuohy on the right and then continued his run to send a downward header back across Mellor and into the far corner.
Billy Coyne replaced St Aimie, who had made a good second home debut, for the closing stages as Urchins looked to protect their lead.
But Coyne’s headed backpass gave Woolley a bit of a fright, before he kicked clear from an advancing Bath striker.
Bourne made way for Tambeson Eyong with two minutes left, having run his heart out on the left side of midfield.
And Urchins boss Jimmy McFarlane also sent the fresh legs of James Love on for May as the home side looked to hold on for four minutes of stoppage time.
Hearts were briefly in mouths when a Joe Lennox cross from the right dropped onto the roof of the Hornchurch net.
But Urchins survived without any further alarm to bank three valuable points and give themselves a notable lift ahead of Monday’s trip to Chelmsford.
Hornchurch: Woolley, Spencer, Bentley, May (Love 90), Styles, Hayles, Bourne (Eyong 88), Curley, Tuohy, St Aimie (Coyne 82), Smith.
Unused subs: Gray, Glover.