Bostik North: Hornchurch cruise past Mildenhall Town after slow start to clinch title with three games to spare
PUBLISHED: 21:45 17 April 2018 | UPDATED: 21:45 17 April 2018
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Bostik North: Hornchurch 2 Mildenhall Town 0
First-half goals from Nathan Cooper and Bradley Warner helped Hornchurch clinch the Bostik North title with a 2-0 victory at home to Mildenhall Town.
After defeating the Suffolk outfit 6-0 back in November, Urchins only needed a point to confirm their status as champions this evening.
It was far from vintage from Hornchurch, but with Jimmy McFarlane watching on from the stands, they got the job done in front of 203 spectators.
Interim boss Colin McBride made two changes to the side which thrashed Witham Town 6-1 on Saturday – a result which clinched promotion for the club – as Alex Bentley and Sean Roberts earned recalls.
Jamie Hursit dropped out of the squad completely while Olumide Oluwatimilehin was on the bench.
Mildenhall, despite their lowly position, started brightly and had most of the play during the opening five minutes, but failed to create anything of signifance.
Hornchurch showed a hint of their capacity in the ninth minute when George Purcell controlled a long kick from Sam Mott and crossed into the area for Leon McKenzie.
McKenzie’s header was heading well wide, but hit the arm of Thomas Debenham and saw some penalty appeals from the home supporters, yet referee Tom Fell correctly waved play on.
The Hornchurch attack failed to knock the confidence of the Suffolk visitors, as they continued to look sharp and it was the hosts who appeared sluggish.
By the 15th minute, Urchins had woken up a bit more and a dangerous centre from Purcell almost found Warner at the back post, but it was just too in front of the former Bowers & Pitsea man.
Hornchurch had a scare in the 18th minute when Cooper misjudged a header back towards Mott and Andrew Ofusu was briefly in.
Urchins goalkeeper was out quickly though, and managed to block the effort from the Town forward and clear the ball for a throw.
Mildenhall were causing the hosts problems still and by the midway point of the first half, the Bridge Avenue club had still not got into top gear.
Jake Chambers-Shaw saw an effort deflected wide for Mildenhall after a Danny Crow free kick and Hornchurch were failing to cope with the physicality of the away side.
McBride and Dave Collis were calling for more urgency from their team with Town on top in all facets come the 25th minute.
But less than 60 seconds the Urchins went in front in slightly fortuitous circumstances as Mott fired a free kick forward from close to the halfway line, Mildenhall failed to deal with the first ball and Cooper was on hand to diver home.
It was the centre back’s eighth goal of the campaign, although the final touch seemed to come off a Town defender.
Cooper claimed the goal and with 26 on the clock, Urchins were leading and on their way to securing the title.
The nerves were gone now and Hornchurch were getting into their stride and trying their best to pass the ball around.
Another neat passage of play occurred in the 32nd minute, but the move looked to have broken down when McKenzie controlled well and set Warner.
The talented winger cut inside, worked another yard of space and curled wonderfully past Jake Hallett from 25-yards to make it 2-0.
It was all Hornchurch now and as the sun went down, so did the intensity levels of the away side.
Urchins, with McFarlane watching from the side, were winning the second balls and free kicks, but Mildenhall’s Steve Holder tried to catch out Mott with a snapshot four minutes before half time, yet it lacked the required quality to beat the home custodian.
Mott was called into action on the stroke of the interval, however it was only to claim an overhit cross from Chambers-Shaw and referee Fell blew for half time moments later.
Hornchurch began the second period on the front foot, but Chambers-Shaw did test Mott from range in the 50th minute.
It showed the visitors were still a threat, though Urchins nearly made it 3-0 when Purcell latched onto Warner’s flick in the 52nd minute, but Hallett saved low to his left.
Another chance was created in the 56th minute, after Joseph Asensi replaced Crow, when Chambers-Shaw’s free kick found his captain Matthew Green. The Town skipper could only get a faint touch to the cross though, and it went past the post.
McBride made a change of his own eight minutes later when Nathan Livings was introduced for Sean Roberts.
Town were forced to make their second change of the evening in the same minute as the lively Ofusu went down with an injury and was forced off.
Ben Nolan came on in his place for Mildenhall and despite Hornchurch appearing in control, McBride urged the team to grab a third goal.
It nearly occurred two minutes later when Jay Porter’s fine forward pass was brought down perfectly by Warner, yet he could only fire wide from 12-yards.
McKenzie was next to try his luck, although his hopeful effort flew way over in the 71st minute and it remained 2-0.
McBride wanted more, but the Urchins fans seemed happy enough and began to sing about being champions.
A brief stoppage in play happened in the 74th minute when Connor Hogan went down after blocking a shot with his face.
The midfielder was quickly up on his feet though, and able to continue as Urchins went in search of a third goal which would really kick-start the title winners party.
Incidentally, Hogan did come off with 76 on the clock as he was replaced by Oluwatimilehin while Theo Fairweather-John took the place of McKenzie.
Mildenhall also made their final substitution as Chambers-Shaw went off for Marcio Pereira with 13 minutes left.
As the games entered the last 10 minutes, Hornchurch’s loyal support continued to go through their repertoire of songs.
Plenty of the chants were aimed at the direction of the onlooking McFarlane and also interim boss McBride.
The final exchanges were scrappy and as three minutes of stoppage time were added on, Hornchurch went in search of a big finale.
It didn’t arrive, though it hardly matter as Urchins done enough to confirm their status as Bostik North champions.
A more vintage performance would have been preferred, but in many ways this result and performance summed up Hornchurch’s season – they always got the job done no matter what and it was another clean sheet for the meanness defence in the division.
This result takes Urchins onto 98 points with three games to go and a win in all three would see them beat their own points total of 105 in the 2006/07 campaign.
Next up for the hosts is their final home match of the season on Friday night against local rivals Aveley.
Hornchurch: Mott; Bentley, Lee, Cooper, Porter; Hogan (Oluwatimilehin 76), Styles, Roberts (Livings 64); Warner, McKenzie (Fairweather-Johnson 77), Purcell.
Unused substitutes: Chouman, Collis.
Mildenhall Town: Hallett; Hood, Kerins, Debenham, Smith; Crow (Asensi 56); Chambers-Shaw (Pereira 77), Green, Brown; Ofusu (Nolan 64), Holder.