Harlow Town end Hornchurch's Ryman League promotion hopes
PUBLISHED: 17:07 01 May 2016 | UPDATED: 17:07 01 May 2016
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Ryman North play-off final: Harlow Town 3 Hornchurch 1
Hornchurch saw their hopes of promotion back to the Ryman Premier Division shattered by Harlow.
Captain Elliot Styles scored an unfortunate own goal, before Alex Read teed up Piers Wixon for a simple second.
And although George Purcell fired home from the penalty spot before the break, Urchins saw Layne Eadie flash home a stunning third to send the Hawks up with champions Sudbury and condemn Jimmy McFarlane’s men to another season in Ryman North.
McFarlane named an unchanged starting line-up from Wednesday’s 2-0 win at Thurrock, when Purcell and Junior Luke had found the net at Ship Lane.
And the hosts also lined up with the same 11 players who had started their 3-0 victory over Cray.
Urchins had lost 3-1 on their previous visit in late January, when Junior Dadson struck twice for the Hawks, but both sides went into this showdown in good form, with Hornchurch unbeaten in seven matches (five wins, two draws) and Harlow in eight (seven wins, one draw), since their 4-3 loss at Romford.
The teams took to the field to a noisy backdrop from the home fans and the visitors got an early sight when Luke skipped past Ibrahima Sonko and passed to Purcell, who had strayed just offside.
Alex Bentley’s long ball from left back then gave Purcell hope, as keeper David Hughes came out of his box and sent a clearance against Sonko, but the ball spun wide for a throw-in.
Styles had to be alert to deny Read at the other end, though, as he looked to profit in the inside-right channel and then Craig Pope’s low ball in from the right caused an anxious moment before Urchins cleared.
Purcell tried a speculative effort from 35 yards as Hornchurch countered, but the 39-goal striker did not get enough height on the ball to beat the backpedalling Hughes.
And David Knight was denied by a superb block from Sonko when Purcell did well to pull the ball back from the right byline on 11 minutes.
But Urchins fell behind within a minute when Junior Dadson found space on the left to pick out Wixon inside the six-yard box and although he somehow contrived to hit the crossbar with the goal at his mercy, the ball rebounded into the net off the unfortunate Styles.
Sam Mott had another scare on 21 minutes as he came to the edge of his box to head clear from Read, but saw the ball loop up behind him, where Tambeson Eyong was thankfully on hand to help clear the danger.
But disaster struck for Urchins on the half hour mark when a Dave Collis corner was cleared to halfway, where Jared Small sent the ball in behind Bentley for Read to run on to and he unselfishly teed up Wixon for an open goal that he dare not miss.
McFarlane had to spoken to by the fourth official before the break as frustrations grew in the visiting dug out, with Harlow’s defence holding firm in the face of some mild pressure.
But then Eyong sent another long throw into the box, for Collis to flick on, and Eyong went down under a challenge from Small as Harlow looked to scramble clear, with referee Paul Howard pointing to the spot.
Purcell smashed his penalty down the middle to give Urchins a lifeline three minutes before the interval, but tempers then boiled over behind and between the two dugouts, which led to a lengthy stoppage in play.
A long throw-in from Luke then caused some panic in Harlow’s defence, but they managed to clear and take their lead into the break.
Neither side made any changes for the second half, but then Mott was left in a pile when smothering bravely at the feet of Junior Dadson as he looked to convert a low ball from the right from Syrus Gordon.
It looked like young keeper Callum Chafer was going to be summoned from the bench, but after receiving treatment and changing shirts, Mott was able to continue with his head bandaged like skipper Styles, albeit less colour-coded than his captain.
The eight-minute stoppage did nothing for Hornchurch’s hopes of gaining any momentum, though, and play drifted towards the hour mark with little of note to report.
Then, out of nothing, Harlow left-back Eadie advanced with the ball and let fly in hope more than anything else and saw the ball flash past Mott and into the net, restoring the home side’s two-goal cushion.
McFarlane sent Ricky Freeman and Leon McKenzie on for Purcell and Bentley with 15 minutes of normal time remaining, switching to three at the back.
But they couldn’t make any impact on a Harlow back line, where Sam West impressed alongside the experienced Senegalese international Sonko.
Jed Chouman was sent on to allow Eyong to push forward and the fourth official indicated a minimum of 11 minutes of stoppage time.
But Harlow did not look like relinquishing their lead and, if anything, looked the side more likely to add to the scoreline.
Ryan Melaugh wasted a great counter-attacking chance in the sixth minute of added time, with Mario Noto then clipping a shot over Mott’s bar.
Gordon was also denied by the left foot of Mott, as he looked to poke Melaugh’s through ball past the keeper, but enough damage had already been done for Hornchurch, who must now pick themselves up during the summer and look to mount another promotion bid next season.
Harlow: Hughes, Pope, Eadie, West, Sonko, Simms, Small (Noto 90+3), Gordon, Read, Wixon (Antoine 79), Dadson (Melaugh 88).
Unused subs: Benjamin, Ryan.
Hornchurch: Mott, Eyong, Bentley (McKenzie 75), Styles, Cooper, Collis, Thompson (Chouman 86), Symons, Knight, Purcell (Freeman 75), Luke.
Unused subs: May, Chafer.
Referee: Paul Howard.