Hornchurch’s slim chance of automatic promotion were extinguished at North Road as Regent claimed all 3 points. A defensive mix-up handed Regent the opener and a stunning second doubled their lead on the hour. Leon McKenzie pulled one back for the Urchins in stoppage time.
BRIGHTLINGSEA REGENT 2 HORNCHURCH 1
Brightlingsea Regent: Sam Cowler, Pip Boyland, Jake Gould, Connor Witherspoon, Josh Gould, Matt Cripps, Russell Malton (Rees 66), George Doyle, Billy Hunt, Phil Kelly (Hogan 75), Aaron Condon (Harvey 85).
Unused subs: Ricky Griggs, Harry McDonald.
Hornchurch: Sam Mott, Alex Bentley, Teddy Nesbitt, Abs Seymour, John Easterford, Jed Chouman, Usman Adeniji (Joseph 66), Elliot Styles, Martin Tuohy, Ross Wall (McKenzie 66), Sam Bantick (Purcell 66).
Unused subs: Taj Hussain, Gary Cohen
Officials – Elliott Swallow with Christopher Bodell and Elliott Mayor
Scorers – Hunt 15 (BR) – Kelly 59 (BR) – McKenzie 90+1
Bookings 0 Witherspoon 42 (BR) – Bantick 43 (H) – Seymour 55 (H) – McKenzie 76 (H)
Suration 46.00 + 48.00
BRIGHTLINGSEA REGENT 2 HORNCHURCH 1
Hornchurch were without Nathan Cooper and Kenzer Lee, both out with injury, and Sam Bantick, signed from Sudbury, came into the starting line up, with Leon McKenzie, absent for the last two matches with a chest infection, also included in the squad.
Hornchurch started confidently, and a fourth minute free kick for a foul on Ross Wall was taken by Sam Bantick, and the ball was only partially cleared as far as Teddy Nesbitt, whose first time volley went over the bar.
Bantick was involved in the next attacking move, when he took possession from an Elliot Styles clearance, and played the ball through to Martin Tuohy, whose first time shot also met the same fate, clearing the bar by a matter of inches.
Brightlingsea took the lead on 15 minutes when an Alex Bentley clearance hit John Easterford, and the ball fell in front of Billy Hunt, who sent his shot hard into the net.
Brightlingsea defended two corners, both from Abs Seymour, and Ozzie Adeniji rounded Pip Boyland but his centre was headed away by Josh Gould.
Until now, the Hornchurch defence had little to do, apart from clearing three extremely long throws from Josh Gould, but Brightlingsea came more into the game, winning three corners in quick succession.
Cowler, in the home goal, made a good save when he tipped an Abs Seymour free kick over the bar.
As first half stoppage time approached, Martin Tuohy moved on to a long throw from Bentley, and directed his shot narrowly over the bar.
In the final minute of the half Aaron Condon sent a free kick wide of the post for Brightlingsea.
The uneven pitch came to the rescue of the home side when Wall and Seymour set up Adeniji, only for the ball to take an awkward bounce and go harmlessly wide.
If the opening goal had been extremely fortunate, the same could not be said of the second goal, on 59 minutes. Phil Kelly gained possession out on the right, and he took the ball around Styles and then volleyed home from a narrow angle in spectacular fashion.
And when Hunt opened up the left flank and crossed to Condon, Sam Mott saved well from close range.
Jim McFarlane then made a triple substitution, sending on Leon McKenzie, Tobi Joseph and George Purcell, and the game changed. Until then, Brightlingsea had looked likely to add to their lead, but McKenzie was immediately involved when he took a downward header from Joseph, but an alert Cowler raced out to save.
With Hornchurch continually coming forward, Mott twice saved in counter attacks, firstly from Condon and then from Kelly.
Josh Gould cleared from Jed Chouman, who then almost pulled a goal back with a hard shot that Cowler did well to tip over the bar.
The match was just entering stoppage time when Chouman played the ball back to Bentley, and he crossed toward the far post, where Leon McKenzie powered his header into the net.
Hornchurch, urged on by a massive away following, threw everyone forward, and Cowler became the hero of Brightlingsea’s day when a Bentley throw found Tuohy, and the keeper just managed to save right under the bar, as Brightlingsea held on desperately to take the three points, and almost certainly the championship.