Lots of Hornchurch input in the Bostik North play-off final between Haringey Borough and Canvey Island, but sadly no Peter Butcher

PUBLISHED: 17:00 09 May 2018

Pete Butcher watches on during a match between Waltham Abbey and Hornchurch in April 2017 (pic George Phillipou/TGS Photo)

Pete Butcher watches on during a match between Waltham Abbey and Hornchurch in April 2017 (pic George Phillipou/TGS Photo)

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We now know who will go up with Hornchurch and Potters Bar Town. The play-off decider took place on Sunday, at Haringey Borough, at home to Canvey Island.

With third-placed Bowers & Pitsea already eliminated in the semi-final, it was fourth v sixth, Haringey having finished on 89 points, and Canvey on 80 points.

On a hot and sunny day, the car park was already full when we arrived 45 minutes before the kick off, with the overflow car park also rapidly filling up, and full marks to the army of stewards who good-humouredly directed the continuous flow of cars into the remaining spaces.

For the first time this season there was a queue to get into the ground - 45 minutes before the start - and the food outlet was already very busy.

There was plenty of Hornchurch interest in the match, with Danny Heale in charge of the visitors - Danny played a prominent role in our Essex Senior League season in 2005, when he scored 21 goals in 36 appearances.

Steve Sheehan captained the Canvey team, though few will remember him at Hornchurch, as he only played one match in our Capital League side, which was in 2008 at Thurrock. Steve later went on to play for Canvey, East Thurrock United and Billericay Town, before returning to Canvey in 2015, and he is now their club captain.

There were two other Hornchurch players involved - Martin Tuohy, who started the match on the bench, and the player who took his place in the starting line up, Sam Higgins.

Martin Tuohy scored 84 goals for us in his seven seasons at Bridge Avenue, and he left us to play for Barking in December before linking up with Canvey in February of this year, and he had scored eight goals in his fifteen appearances for the Gulls.

Higgins only played for Hornchurch twice, in 2008, ironically making his debut at Canvey in 2008. He was not able to get his place in the Hornchurch team, but has since made a massive impact with East Thurrock, and his 24 league goals this season was the best of any player in the Conference South.

His inclusion was highly controversial - speedway has for a long time used ‘guest riders’, and has lost many followers as a result, with teams now regularly using guests to replace their own riders.

It now seems to have crept into football, as Canvey used two ‘guest’ players, signed on dual registration from East Thurrock, specifically to play in the play-offs. This is a legal loophole, which needs to be closed immediately, before it reaches farcical proportions.

And there was one other Hornchurch connection - a very sad one, as there was a minute’s sustained and loud applause for our secretary, Peter Butcher, who died two days earlier.

On a personal level, I have known Pete (no, I do not call him Peter, it’s always been Pete) for so long that I cannot remember when we first met, and much has already been said about his remarkable journalistic career. Not to mention his work with the Isthmian and Essex Senior Leagues, and of course with Hornchurch.

But what has not been mentioned is that he has been to over 4000 Isthmian League matches, a record that will be very difficult to beat. He travelled to almost every match by car, which had already gone around the clock once, and was rapidly heading for 200,000 miles.

Pete was always the first person to arrive at our away matches, and seemed to be universally known and liked. Pete was also a keen speedway follower, and would go to the Arena Essex and Rye House whenever football permitted.

Pete would have certainly been at Haringey on Sunday, and equally as certainly been at Dulwich on the Monday - where there was also a minute’s applause in his memory - and his method of watching a match was to start in the seats, and then wander off around the ground, somehow never missing any of the action, and producing an amazingly accurate report without seeming to take many notes of what went on.

Canvey were out on the pitch, warming up, long before the start - not a good idea in the blazing heat - whilst Haringey kept their warm-up to a minimum.

There was little to enthuse about in the first half, with much of the attention on their ‘guest’, Sam Higgins, who had a very quiet game.

The match warmed up in the second half, when an inspired Haringey began to take control, although all the goals had an element of controversy about them.

Centre half Mark Kirby headed Haringey into the lead on 73 minutes, from a corner, but the video showed that there was considerable doubt about the awarding of a free kick, and a yellow card, that led to the corner kick.

The second goal was a penalty, which was questionable, to put it mildly, as there was a foul immediately before that went unnoticed.

Two goals up, it seemed to be all over, but then Canvey brought on Martin Tuohy - far too late in the game - and there was an immediate difference, as Canvey swarmed forward.

Despite a lengthy stoppage for injury to the home goalkeeper, three bookings, five substitutions and two over-long goal celebrations, only four minutes were added for stoppages, and in the second of those minutes, Steve Sheehan headed home, from a free kick that should perhaps have been given the other way.

The final controversy came as the four minutes left to play became four seconds. Two home players chased a long clearance down the right flank, one of whom was the ex-Romford player Chinedu McKenzie, who was in an offside position.

Up went the linesman’s flag, and it was promptly taken down when McKenzie slowed to let the other Haringey player chase the ball.

The Canvey goalkeeper made little attempt to stop the ball, which ended up in the net - the goal was awarded after a brief consultation, and after a prolonged protest Danny Heale was sent off from the bench.

Seconds later it was all over. Haringey were promoted. And Canvey was left to wonder whether it would have been different had Martin Tuohy started the match.

So there was plenty of Hornchurch input into the play-off final, but sadly, no Pete Butcher.

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