Hornchurch make their point against leaders

PUBLISHED: 18:41 16 January 2016 | UPDATED: 18:41 16 January 2016

George Purcell of Hornchurch celebrates his goal to level the score against AFC Sudbury (pic: Mick Kearns/TGSPHOTO)

George Purcell of Hornchurch celebrates his goal to level the score against AFC Sudbury (pic: Mick Kearns/TGSPHOTO)

©TGS Photo +44 1376 553468

Ryman North: Sudbury 1 Hornchurch 1

David Knight of Hornchurch runs with the ball against AFC Sudbury (pic: Mick Kearns/TGSPHOTO)David Knight of Hornchurch runs with the ball against AFC Sudbury (pic: Mick Kearns/TGSPHOTO)

Hornchurch had to settle for a point against table-topping Sudbury after a well-contested clash at the King’s Marsh Stadium.

And it was no more than they deserved as they remain in third place, seven points off the summit.

Urchins had the better chances in the first half, but fell behind midway through the second half when George Clarke headed home.

Sudbury’s lead lasted less than two minutes, though, as George Purcell fired home his 32nd goal of the season to earn the visitors a share of the spoils.

Sudbury win a free-kick just outside the box against Hornchurch (pic: Mick Kearns/TGSPHOTO)Sudbury win a free-kick just outside the box against Hornchurch (pic: Mick Kearns/TGSPHOTO)

Purcell had a great chance to open the scoring inside two minutes as he raced on to Joey May’s excellent through ball, but slid his shot beyond the far post.

David Knight and Alex Bentley combined well on the left soon after to win a corner, while May had a deflected shot comfortably saved by Marcus Garnham before threading another excellent pass into the path of Purcell, whose touch let him down and allowed Ben Robinson to make a covering tackle.

Urchins had settled quickly on the 3G surface, but Alex Bentley had to produce a well-timed tackle to thwart Ollie Berquez in the box on 12 minutes, during a rare excursion into an attacking position by the home side, who saw Sam Clarke booked for a foul on Jed Chouman.

Bentley was also shown a yellow card for clipping Berquez on halfway, but Urchins had a couple more half chances around the midway point of the first half as Knight hooked a shot over from Elliot Styles’ nod-down, before Purcell sent a speculative snap shot drifting past the far post.

Styles had his name taken for a trip on Craig Parker, after a strong run from the Sudbury player, but the free-kick was wasted and Urchins broke swiftly again as Knight and Purcell combined to find Leon McKenzie, who was crowded out.

A great run on the left by the impressive Junior Luke set up a chance for Knight, whose shot was deflected behind on 29 minutes and Bentley drilled a low shot wide of the near post from May’s short corner.

Another three-on-two break from the visitors saw Purcell denied by Robinson again, before his pass was just too heavy for McKenzie and Garnham smothered.

Nathan Cooper became the third Hornchurch player booked for a tug on Liam Wales just before the break, but the visitors had looked the more threatening as the half-time whistle sounded.

Referee Alistair Wilson was busy again soon after the restart, cautioning Steffano Mallardo for a foul on Knight and penalising Luke for handball, before George Clarke glanced a header wide from Jack Newman’s free-kick.

There was a moment of controversy on 55 minutes as Garnham came out of his box to clear the danger from Purcell and went down with a scream, but after talking to his linesman, Wilson awarded Sudbury a free-kick and took no further action.

Styles was spoken to for showing dissent after conceding a free-kick, before Wilson booked Ryan Henshaw for a foul on Purcell by the touchline.

Purcell fired just wide from 25 yards, moments after a comical miskick, but Urchins had a let-off when Wales got the better of Sam Mott and sent the ball goalwards, only for Cooper to get back and clear off the line.

The respite was brief, as Sudbury took the lead on 65 minutes when an excellent cross from the right by Robinson found Clarke at the far post to head back across goal and inside the upright.

But Urchins were quickly back on level terms as Garnham punched Luke’s cross to May, whose shot was headed off the line by Mallardo, before Purcell smashed his shot through a crowd and into the net to move to within one of the club’s goalscoring record.

Sudbury substitute Joe Maybanks saw a low drive of his own flash wide of the far post on 74 minutes, before Knight volleyed narrowly wide at the other end six minutes later.

And Parker headed wide from a Maybanks free-kick two minutes from time, after Luke had fouled Jordan Blackwell for a second time wide on the right and been shown a yellow card.

Jimmy McFarlane sent Billy Coyne on for the closing moments, switching Chouman to left-back and moving Luke to the right wing.

And Luke got a sight of goal at the start of stoppage time, only to drag his shot across the face of Garnham’s goal.

Urchins had penalty appeals for handball ignored when Coyne sent a long throw-in into the box, before May fired the loose ball just wide.

And so it ended all square in front of a crowd of 403, as promotion rivals Cray and Thurrock fell to surprise defeats against Brightlingsea and Cheshunt respectively.

Hornchurch: Mott, Chouman, Luke, May, Cooper, Goodacre, Knight (Coyne 88), Styles, McKenzie, Purcell, Bentley. Unused subs: Collis, Poku, Dove, Thompson.

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