Two goals in the last 15 minutes from Brad Warner and George Purcell ensured it was the Urchins who claimed the points in what was a very closely fought contest with Grays Athletic.
GRAYS ATHLETIC 0 HORNCHURCH 2
Grays – Johnson, Folkes, Cross, Cogan © (Thompson 85), Dunn, Wilson, Zuhdu, Cole, Bishop, Hughes-Mason (Mahal 59), Carlos
Subs – ALdis, Fowler, Gogo-Ibiama
Hornchurch: Mott, Bentley, Porter, Lee, Cooper, Chouman, Fairweather-Johnson (Joseph 61), Styles ©, McKenzie (Wall 83), Purcell, Warner (Hursit 87).
Subs: Tuohy, Goodacre
Officials – Graeme Ions with Shane Brown and Piotr Zachwieja
Scorers – Warner 75 – Purcell 90+1
Bookings – Styles 38 (H) – Bentley 66 (H) – McKenzie 77 (H) – Wilson 80 (G) OFF
Duration 46.00 + 49.00
Played at Aveley FC
GRAYS ATHLETIC 0 HORNCHURCH 2
Hornchurch made their first visit to Aveley’s new ground, where both teams took some time to adjust to the 3G surface, with black pellets rising up each time the ball bounced. After an even first half, Hornchurch slowly took control in the second period, but it was not until the final fifteen minutes that they took the lead, eventually running out comfortable winners in a very close and at times nerve-wracking match.
Last Saturday Elliot Styles made his 500th appearance, and at Grays it was Jed Chouman’s turn to reach a landmark, with his 100th appearance for Hornchurch.
First chance fell to Hornchurch in the second minute, when George Purcell slotted through to Bradley Warner, but a raised offside flag averted the danger.
Grays, with three ex-Hornchurch players in their line up – James Folkes, Kieran Bishop and Suley Zuhdu – had an early opportunity when James Folkes fed through to Adeyinka Cole, but, with defenders close by, he put his shot wide of the upright.
Kenzer Lee directed a header a fraction wide of the post from a well-flighted Brad Warner free kick, and when Sam Mott sent a long clearance upfield, it resulted in a free kick ten yards outside the area. Purcell stepped up and his hard drive cannoned back off the defensive wall.
Kieron Bishop sent a shot high and over the bar, and a Grays corner was headed away as the home side began to take control, coming forward from midfield.
Another Purcell free kick was defended well, and Lamar Johnson made a good save from Leon McKenzie who had moved on to another long Mott clearance.
At the other end Mott saved well from Bishop, with the resultant corner going across the face of the goal.
A minute after the interval Purcell turned sharply and fired in a hard shot that rose a fraction too high and over the bar.
Two minutes later Johnson could only palm away another vicious Purcell shot, and although Warner was first to react to the loose ball, he put his shot inches wide of the far post.
Grays almost found a way through when Cole got onto the end of a long clearance out of defence, but he put his shot wide. Hornchurch survived a period of intense Grays pressure, and twice the ball went across the face of the goal, with no one able to get a touch, with another shot from close range being cleared off the line.
Tobi Joseph eased the pressure when he moved powerfully upfield, only to put his shot narrowly wide. Joseph was again prominent in a fine move to send McKenzie clear on the wing but there was no one in the middle to get a touch as the ball came across.
Fifteen minutes from time it was Joseph who started the move, and Brad Warner who finished it off, with a pulsating solo run followed by a hard drive that gave the keeper no chance.
Grays were now struggling to cope with a dominant Hornchurch attack, and they were further handicapped when Glenn Wilson handled a shot on the line, preventing a certain goal. One red card later, Leon McKenzie stepped up to take the penalty, only for Johnson to make a fine diving save.
Brad Warner limped off, and was replaced by Jamie Hursit, though later the verdict was that it was not serious.
Hornchurch did not look like losing their slender lead, and in the first minute of stoppage time George Purcell made sure of the points with a hard drive from the edge of the area.