Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Football: Thurrock overcome Urchins to reach Play-Off Final

Thurrock 1 AFC Hornchurch 0

Ryman North Play-Off Semi-Final

Report by Scott Lanza

THURROCK placed one foot in the Ryman Premier League after a hard fought, but utterly deserved Semi-Final win over AFC Hornchurch at Ship Lane on Wednesday evening. Remi Sutton’s twelfth minute goal was all that separated the sides but the Fleet showed resilience, flair and at times grit as they edged pass an AFC Hornchurch side that had ended Thurrock’s play-off dreams almost a year ago.

In that game a year ago the Fleet took until the second half to get going; time around they came out of the blocks quickly and good link up play between Glenn Poole and Remi Sutton in the second minute ended up being presented to Mark Onyemah. It was almost a perfect start as his shot required Sam Mott to get down low to tip away. Onyemah, who received an award before the game in recognition of playing one hundred games for the Fleet, clearly wanted to mark the occasion with a goal and he soon tested Mott with a powerful header.

Thurrock at times this season have kept the ball well and distributed it around the park with precision passing. On Wednesday the Fleet’s passing was sublime at times, with Poole often involved in the attacking moves, spraying balls right and left that kept the Urchins defence busy. It was no surprise that Poole often found himself on the receiving end of some solid Urchins tackling. But Poole was undeterred and soon starting another fine passing move that saw him spread the ball out wide to Clark, who then knocked a diagonal pass to Charlie Simpson. For a moment the Urchins defence looked like it had been breached but Simpson was then dispossessed just as he was about to shoot by Elliot Styles.

The Fleet finally took the lead in the twelfth minute when a ball sent into the box reached Sutton and his right-footed shot slipped past Mott. However if Thurrock thought that the goal would see them in ascendency then they were wrong because two minutes later the Urchins had managed to get back up the other end and win a corner, after Abs Thompson’s header ricocheted off goal scorer Sutton. The resulting corner was re-constituted back into the box on two occasions by the Urchins but eventually the Fleet lines were cleared by a no-nonsense clearance from Joe Bruce. However the Urchins were now starting to test the Fleet defence a bit more often and their best chance came midway through the half when Martin Tuohy held up the ball before laying it off for Seymour. The resulting shot had power and direction but Mason’s reflex save kept the ball out. Mason’s defence had kept the Urchins’ chances down to only that one as the half reached the midway stage.

The Urchins then crafted their best chance thus far when McKenzie and Tuohy suddenly linked up nicely, splitting the Fleet defence in the process, with Tuohy finding the space to rip off a shot that was well saved by Mason. Kenzer Lee also went close with a header as the Urchins had a little spell of dominance.

The pendulum was soon back with Thurrock though and a Poole free kick was met by the head of Richard Halle, but Mott was on hand to pull off another quality save. Onyemah, who had made himself a thorn in the side of the Urchins defence, then played in Sutton, but the Fleet goal scorer came together with Gary Cohen resulting in Sutton being bundled to the floor; the Referee, Mr Hancock, had a long hard look at the situation in front of him before deciding there was nothing in it and letting play continue.

Thurrock had been the better of the two teams as the seconds ticked away for the end of the half. They were then almost gifted an opportunity in the closing moments as a terrible mix-up between Mott and Lee saw them both collide into each other; any further blushes were spared as Onyemah just failed to connect with the ball and it rolled off for a corner. It was lucky let-off for the Urchins who went in at the break only a goal down and still very much in the contest.

Mark Stimson and Jimmy McFarland both had a bench full of talent to bring into proceedings and both managers had need to make some changes early on. Reece Morgan came on for Thurrock at the start of the half and then AFC Hornchurch made their first substitution five minutes into the half as Abs Seymour received a knock and had to be replaced by Teddy Nesbitt. It was Nesbitt who then had the first real chance of the half when Alex Bentley floated over a delightful ball which he fired goal ward, forcing Mason to parry the ball away.

The Fleet defence were not giving the Urchins forwards any space and so on 66 minutes McFarland went for broke and made a double substitution bringing on Ross Wall and George Purcell. Neither were able to get a foothold and rarely created anything that troubled the Fleet goal. A Purcell free kick ended up being fired straight into the Fleet wall. The ball may have spilled out to Tuohy but Halle was on his case before he could do anything with it and the ball was soon punted clear from the Fleet penalty area.

The Fleet were being kept at bay themselves but did see Jordan Clark hit a long range effort just wide of the near post, while Joe Christou went close with a header. David Cowley then came of the subs bench and was soon showing nice touches, with the pick of the bunch being a pass that found Sutton. His cross shot from the right tested Mott; then the Urchins keeper had to cut out a similar Cowley cross shot from the other wing.

The final ten minutes saw the Fleet continue working hard to keep the Urchins forwards isolated while also going forward in an attempt to snare a second goal. Mott had to tip away another shot from the boot of Sutton and then had to rush of his line to clear up a through ball that Onyemah was chasing.

Tuohy and Nesbitt both had half-chances as the game entered stoppage time, with Tuohy dragging his shot wide of the mark, while Nesbitt looked to be through on goal after being set up by Tuohy before Halle’s timely intervention.

After five minutes of stoppage time Mr Hancock then brought the curtain down on the Semi-Final bringing a load cheer from the Fleet fans in the 481 crowd. The Fleet travel to Maldon & Tiptree, who came through a 4-3 thriller with Haringey Borough, on Sunday with promotion to the Ryman Premier the prize for the victors.

Thurrock: Bobby Mason, Ronnie Winn, Remi Sutton, Richard Halle, Mark Onyemah (Jack Barham 90+2′), Joe Bruce, Jordan Clark, Glenn Poole, Charlie Simpson (David Cowley 58′), Joe Christou, George Winn (Reece Morgan 46′).

Scorer – Remi Sutton (2′)

AFC Hornchurch: Sam Mott, Gary Cohen, Alex Bentley, Kenzer Lee, Nathan Cooper, Elliot Styles, Abs Thomas (Ross Wall 66′), Jed Chouman, Leon McKenzie (George Purcell 66′), Martin Tuohy, Abs Seymour (Teddy Nesbitt 50′).


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