Leon’s hat-trick lifts five-star Hornchurch
PUBLISHED: 17:07 14 January 2017 | UPDATED: 17:07 14 January 2017
Witham Town 1 Hornchurch 5
A hat-trick from Leon McKenzie lifted Hornchurch to a convincing Ryman North win on their travels at Witham.
McKenzie struck twice in the space of a minute after a frustrating opening half hour to put Urchins on top.
And after Abs Thompson’s early second-half effort had been cancelled out by a Tim Monsheju strike, McKenzie volleyed emphatically home to complete his treble, before Kenzer Lee’s late goal iced the cake on a chilly day at Spa Road.
After both sides observed a minutes silence for former Hornchurch manager Arthur Wenborn, the visitors had the first sight of goal when Ross Wall chased McKenzie’s pass up the right and laid the ball back to his strike partner, whose attempted chip from 20 yards flew narrowly over the crossbar in the third minute.
And Urchins should have taken the lead on six minutes when Junior Luke swapped passes with Wall on the left and sent a low cross into the box, where it evaded McKenzie at the near post and a sliding Thompson with the goal at his mercy.
Witham’s Nathan Koranteng scuffed an attempted shot on the turn just inside the box, but team-mate Usman Adeniji was convinced a Hornchurch defender handled the ball and, after his appeals were ignored and he continued to complain, he had to be spoken to by referee Darren Knox.
Adeniji then forced a fingertip save from the backpedalling Sam Mott on 17 minutes, as Witham threatened the Urchins goal for the first time, with Thompson and McKenzie spoken to after robust tackles around the halfway line midway through the half.
The impressive Tobi Coker saw a free-kick held at the near post by Reece Paine, before McKenzie was booked in a case of mistaken identity for an off-the-ball incident involving Wall which incensed the visiting dug out.
And Hornchurch frustrations continued to grow, until just past the half-hour mark, when a corner from the left was headed down by Nathan Cooper for McKenzie to swivel and fire past a defender on the line and into the net.
And Urchins doubled their lead barely a minute later when Luke carried the ball forward and into the box, before it broke kindly to McKenzie, who kept his composure to slot into the corner.
Luke limped off before the interval to be replaced by Ayrton Coley, but the visitors could be well pleased with their half-time lead despite that setback.
Koranteng flashed a speculative shot wide of the far post at the start of the second half, as Witham looked for a quick reply, and Cooper had to make a key block to deny Adeniji moments later.
Then Mott plunged to his left to smother a deflected Koranteng effort, before the same player dragged a 20-yard effort wide on a quick counter-attack.
It had been a slow start for Urchins, but they went 3-0 up when Thompson got in behind the Witham defence and slotted the ball past Paine and into the net, despite the desperate efforts of a covering defender to clear off the line.
Jed Chouman almost put McKenzie through on goal after a neat interception on halfway, before Wall was booked for a challenge just inside his own half.
And Witham hit back just before the hour when Monsheju found a bit of space just outside the box and placed a shot beyond the diving Mott and into the far top corner.
Thompson became the third Hornchurch player to have his name taken after a trip on the rampaging Adeniji on Witham’s left, but Lee got up well to head the free-kick clear under pressure and Koranteng’s follow-up shot was blocked.
Coley then ran on to Wall’s flick and drew a foul from Luke Mallett, who was booked, but Coker’s free-kick was cleared and JJ Da Cruz fired a speculative effort wide from fully 30 yards.
Cooper produced a sublime piece of skill for a centre-back to bring a high ball under control, then turned his man and rolled a simple square ball to Bentley, drawing a ripple of applause as Urchins regained control of proceedings.
Jimmy McFarlane sent Gary Cohen on for Thompson for the final 17 minutes, with the substitute quickly on to McKenzie’s flick and flashing a dangerous cross into the box, which was cleared.
Mott was quick off his line to close down the angle and deny Monsheju from an acute angle, after he ran on to a long ball on 78 minutes, before Coker saw his volley from Wall’s left-wing cross cleared off the line for Urchins.
Hornchurch went 4-1 up with nine minutes left, though, when Cohen beat his man on the right and sent over another inviting cross, which McKenzie volleyed home to complete his hat-trick and make it 26 for the season, before making way for Elliot Styles in the closing stages.
Chouman’s excellent volley was pushed wide by Paine, with Cooper’s header from the corner scrambled away by the Witham defence as Urchins looked for a fifth.
And the visitors completed their nap hand in stoppage time when a corner reached Lee, who flashed a low left-footed drive into the net for his second goal of the campaign.
Hornchurch: Mott, Bentley, Da Cruz, Lee, Cooper, Chouman, Thompson (Cohen 73), Wall, McKenzie (Styles 84), Coker, Luke (Coley 45).
Unused subs: Hussain, Joseph.
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