Apr 16 2012 Jon Batham
RYMAN LEAGUE PREMIER LEAGUE
AFC Hornchurch 1
TOM PETT’s stunning solo goal kept Wealdstone’s playoff dreams alive as they all but ended AFC Hornchurch’s title hopes on Saturday.
Stones boss Gordon Bartlett claimed in the build-up to the match with the championship-chasing Urchins his side had no room for error and needed something special to win all of their last five games to reach the end of season knockout stages.
Pett provided it with a goal which will be long remembered by those who witnessed it and to cap everything his effort proved to be the winner, keeping Stones in the heart of the playoff scrap.
The three points means they will climb to sixth if they can produce another win at already relegated Tooting & Mitcham on Tuesday night.
It was not all about the New Year signing from Potters Bar however, with Sean Cronin producing a man of the match performance on his return to the first XI.
Alongside skipper Wes Parker, Cronin marshalled a magnificent rear-guard by the hosts in the wake of siege laid by their Essex visitors over the last 25 minutes of an entertaining encounter.
Hornchurch almost suffered an embarrassing moment inside two minutes when keeper Joe Woolley’s attempted clearance hit the recalled Scott Fitzgerald and shot over his own crossbar.
The Urchins’ keeper then made a double save from Richard Jolly to keep the scores level, before the resulting corner saw strong claims for a penalty after a push on Cronin, but nothing was given.
Minutes later Pett’s neat pass sent Fitzgerald clear only for Reiss Noel’s brilliant challenge to force the ball out for the corner.
However, from the set-piece the breakthrough came as Wes Parker flicked on at the near post and Fitzgerald arrived on cue to head into the far corner.
The Urchins had enjoyed plenty of possession without really hurting the hosts until an error from Scott McCubbin gave Lewis Smith a sight of goal, but Parker’s excellent block diverted the shot to safety.
The second goal Stones needed arrived courtesy of Pett’s party piece.
The midfielder seized on to a loose ball and slalomed around three challenges and into the box before rolling the ball wide of a helpless Woolley.
Dyer sliced an excellent chance for a third immediately after the break and Pett saw another chance blocked by the legs of Woolley.
However, Hornchurch were back in it with their first effort on target on 59 minutes when Eyong’s shot deflected off Massey into the path of Smith who bundled it home.
As the tension rose Woolley spread himself well to deny Chris O’Leary, but the pressure was increasing at the other end and sub Leon McKenzie incredibly headed over with the goal at his mercy, his blushes spared by the offside flag.
Fitzgerald flashed wide on the counter attack, but generally it was backs to the wall and hearts were in mouths in the first minute of stoppage as Jonathan Hunt curled a great effort against the bar.
Jones clawed another ball to safety in one final goalmouth scramble during six additional minutes before the precious win was confirmed.