After an even first half Theo Fairweather-Johnson scored the all important goal with only 5 minutes remaining but Hornchurch had to withstand some sustained pressure from the Gulls throughout he second half.
HORNCHURCH 1 CANVEY ISLAND 0
HFC – Mott, Bentley, Porter, Lee, Cooper, Styles ©, Livings (Roberts 75), Oluwatimilehin, Assombalonga (McKenzie 68), Purcell (Fairweather-Johnson 83), Warner
Subs – Joseph, Hursit
CI – Newcombe, Pitty, Dumas, Craddock (Tuohy 81), Allen, Sheehan, Merryfield, Collins ©, Sykes, Gilbey, Walker (Charles 55)
Subs – Fox, Melaugh, Adeniji
Officials – Neil Morrison with Conor Griffin and Stephen McKee
Scorer – Fairweather-Johnson 85
Bookings – Collins 20 (CI) – Bentley 62 (H) – Porter 84 (H) – Newcombe 90+3 (CI) – McKenzie 90+3 (H)
Duration 49.00 + 49.00
H – Red and white / black / black
CI – all yellow
HORNCHURCH 1 CANVEY ISLAND 0
After Canvey survived a controversial goal line clearance in stoppage time in the first half, Hornchurch had to defend for long periods after the interval, before Theo Fairweather-Johnson, who had only been on the field for two minutes, headed a sensational winning goal five minutes from time.
An Alex Bentley centre in the third minute resulted in a corner, which George Purcell sent over, the ball being headed away, and two minutes later Olumide Oluwatimilehin played an excellent pass up to Brad Warner, who raced away, only for keeper Henry Newcombe to turn the ball around the post for a corner, which was taken by Nathan Livings, but confidently defended.
Canvey looked dangerous when coming forward and a centre from Frankie Merryfield was deflected away for a corner, but play was mainly at the other end of the field, where Purcell fired a free kick over the defensive wall but also over the bar.
Canvey missed an excellent chance to take the lead on 25 minutes when Mitchell Gilbey played a ball across goal from the right to the far post, where Frankie Merryfield put his shot from close range over the bar.
For the remainder of the half chances were few and far between, but as the match entered stoppage time the ball came over from the left, and Chris Assombalonga neatly chipped it over Newcombe and over the line – or so it appeared, but Steve Sheehan hacked it away. The referee looked at the linesman, who shrugged his shoulders, and play was allowed to continue.
Canvey had the better of the territorial play in the second half, but could rarely penetrate a resolute Hornchurch defence, and Sam Mott, in his 200th match for Hornchurch, was rarely troubled, thanks to a solid performance by Elliot Styles, Nathan Cooper and Kenzer Lee in the heart of the defence.
And the first opportunity of the half fell to Nathan Livings, on 65 minutes, whose fine shot was matched by an equally fine save from Newcombe.
Leon McKenzie replaced Assombalonga and made an immediate impact, flicking a clearance on and then just failing to get on to the end of a Purcell cross, and another Purcell centre was headed wide by Warner two minutes later.
Canvey continued to have the better of proceedings, and on 73 minutes Sam Collins crossed towards the far post, where Mitchell Gilbey just failed to reach the ball as it sailed across goal.
George Sykes fired wide from a Ryan Charles pass as Canvey continued to press, and a George Craddock header was deflected around the post by Jay Porter.
The Canvey siege began to dissipate, and acting manager Colin McBride, with Jim McFarlane watching from the terraces, made what turned out to be an inspired substitution. George Purcell, who had been a continuous threat, was replaced by Theo Fairweather-Johnson, and just two minutes later the ball was played out to Brad Warner on the left. Warner sped down the left flank, and appeared to be well covered by Ashley Dumas, but he held the ball up and then centred, for Theo Fairweather-Johnson to make a late run and head the ball past Newcombe for the only goal of the match.
There was little that Canvey could do in the time remaining, their best chance coming from a Sam Collins free kick that cannoned off Porter for a corner. Goalkeeper Newcombe came up for the corner, but conceded a free kick, and a yellow card, and Canvey’s last hope of salvaging a point disappeared.