Bostik North: Hornchurch 1 Canvey Island 0
PUBLISHED: 19:05 10 March 2018
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Hornchurch made huge strides towards promotion after beating rivals Canvey Island at Bridge Avenue in a game largely bereft of goalmouth action.
Substitute Theo Fairweather-Johnson’s late header proved enough for the Urchins to stretch their lead at the top of the table to 14 points and ensure that Canvey slip a place to fourth.
Hornchurch made three changes to the side that drew 1-1 at home to Tilbury a fortnight ago with Alex Bentley, Nathan Livings and Brad Warner replacing Jamie Hursit, Sean Roberts and Theo Fairweather-Johnson who all began the afternoon on the bench.
Canvey went with the exact same 16 that drew 1-1 at Potters Bar Town last time out, with former Hornchurch striker Martin Tuohy again starting on the bench for the Gulls.
The Islanders won the reverse fixture 2-0 back in December with Mitchell Gilby and Ryan Charles getting on the scoresheet on that afternoon.
Chances were few and far between in the first half which had little in the way of shots on target with both sides missing clear chances to take the lead.
Hornchurch began on the front foot with Warner’s low strike after six minutes. A long ball forward found the frontman but his effort was saved by Henry Newcombe’s left foot in the visiting goal and went behind for a corner which was subsequently cleared.
Arguably the best chance of the half fell to Canvey who should have done a lot better with their effort on 26 minutes.
Gilbey’s scuffed shot from the right went across the face of goal towards the back post and fell to an unmarked Frankie Merrifield in the six-yard box, only for his shot to go over the bar from a matter of inches.
Canvey began to see more of the ball and had another chance to take the lead after 32 minutes as the ball found its way to the edge of the area with skipper Sam Collins poised to strike. His fierce effort was destined to find the corner of the net, only for Porter to stick out his right foot and block the shot.
During first-half stoppage time, Christian Assombalonga thought he had given the hosts the lead as the former Dagenham & Redbridge forward found himself one-on-one with Newcombe, only for his chipped effort to be cleared of the line by Gulls defender Steve Sheehan.
The second half began slowly with only half-chances to contend with for both sides.
On 66 minutes, Nathan Livings may have thought he could have done better as Porter’s low cross was laid into his path by Assombalonga. But his strike from the left side of the box was saved expertly by Newcombe down to his left.
Three minutes later, a teasing cross from George Purcell was met at the back post by Warner but his header failed to test Newcombe and went wide.
Canvey retaliated well and had chances too. On 73 minutes George Sykes got the better of a cautioned Bentley and whipped a ball towards the far post where George Craddock rose well, only for his header to cannon off the top of Porter’s head and out for a corner.
On 77 minutes, Canvey were knocking on Hornchurch’s goal again as substitute Ryan Charles sent a through ball for Gilbey who played it across the face of goal, but Sykes was unable to make contact at the far post to the relief of the Urchins’ defence.
The match seemed destined to end goalless but having only been on the field for three minutes Fairweather-Johnson’s glancing header found the bottom corner of the net following a counter attack.
Warner’s cross from the left wing found the substitute in the centre of the area and he rose the highest to score his 15th goal of the season and send the visitors home empty-handed.
Canvey desperately searched for an equaliser only for Collins’ low strike from a direct free-kick just outside the area to be blocked on its way to goal and behind for a corner.
Newcombe came rushing up to add an extra man to Canvey’s attack only for him to be booked for a late challenge on Warner to prevent a counter attack.
Next up for Hornchurch is a home game against mid-table Mildenhall Town on March 17, while Canvey host Brentwood on Tuesday.
Hornchurch: Mott, Bentley, Porter, Lee, Cooper, Styles, Livings (Roberts 74), Oluwatimilehin, Assombalonga (McKenzie 68), Purcell (Fairweather-Johnson 83), Warner. Unused subs: Joseph, Hursit.