Spot-on Tuohy spares Hornchurch

Martin Tuohy scores the equalising goal for Hornchurch from the penalty spot (Gavin Ellis/TGSPHOTO)

Martin Tuohy scores the equalising goal for Hornchurch from the penalty spot (Gavin Ellis/TGSPHOTO) - Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGSPHOTO

Hornchurch 1 Staines 1

Martin Tuohy showed tremendous character to net a late penalty and salvage a last-gasp draw in a tense Conference South relegation battle at Bridge Avenue.

The striker, who missed from the spot in last weekend’s defeat to Maidenhead, scored with two minutes remaining after Lewis Smith was brought down.

Urchins remain in the bottom three, but a point was the least the home side deserved after a spirited second-half performance.

Jimmy McFarlane’s team knew they could leapfrog Staines and move out of the relegation zone with a win, but they got off to the worst possible start.

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There were only six minutes on the clock when Max Worsfold smashed the ball into the bottom corner after good approach play by Tyrone Marsh to put the visitors ahead.

It knocked the stuffing out of Hornchurch as the game descended into a scrappy, tetchy affair with few clear-cut chances for either side.

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Tambeson Eyong was Urchins most impressive player and had their only chances in the opening 45 minutes.

Eyong fired over after an Andy Tomlinson cross fell to him and repeated the trick after being played in by Paul Goodacre.

Staines were content to sit on their lead and McFarlane took the initiative by making a double substitution at half-time.

Elliot Styles returned from a lengthy absence, following a broken collarbone, to replace Goodacre in a straight swap and Wayne Gray came on for Tomlinson in a tactical change which saw Smith drop into a deeper role.

Gray made a real difference as Hornchurch dominated most of the second half, winning headers and providing a physical presence in attack while Smith relished the extra space his positional switch afforded him.

But despite practically camping in the Staines half they were struggling to test away goalkeeper Jack Turner.

Tuohy blazed over after being played in by Smith and Gray thought he should have had a penalty after tussling with Jerel Ifil: and so did McFarlane judging by his apoplectic reaction.

As the game wore on Staines looked dangerous on the break and they would have put the game to bed had it not been for some heroic last-ditch defending from Reiss Noel.

He deflected a goalbound shot from goalscorer Worsfold over the bar and as the game entered the final quarter of an hour, Noel also cleared off the line from Marsh after Joe Woolley had saved one-on-one from David Wheeler.

Turner made excellent late saves from Tuohy and Billy Coyne in the final 10 minutes as Urchins piled on the pressure.

And just when it looked like Hornchurch’s survival bid was going to be dealt a devastating blow, Smith jinxed into the penalty area and drew a foul from Worsfold.

Referee Simon Knapp pointed to the spot and was surrounded by Staines’ players, convinced Smith had taken a dive.

But the decision stood and Tuohy kept his cool to slot the ball into the bottom corner and clinch a point.

Hornchurch have now gone nine league games without a win and McFarlane said the Essex Senior Cup semi-final clash at Waltham Abbey on Tuesday will provide a welcome distraction to their league troubles.

But there are some concerns over the state of Abbey’s pitch and the game could be moved to an alternative venue and supporters are urged to check the club website for updates.

Hornchurch: Woolley, Coyne, Noel, Goodacre (Styles 46), Bentley, Eyong (May 62), Tomlinson (Gray 46), Spencer, Smith, Tuohy.

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