Wins for the top two- but the gap remains nine points

By Ian Townsend

Hornchurch and Chatham get three, Horsham climb to sixth, Hawks win from two down, Cray win an amber battle, Margate climb out of the bottom four and K’s end Bognor’s unbeaten run

Leaders Hornchurch started the weekend with a nine point lead at the top of Pitching In Isthmian Premier, and hoped to at least retain that advantage as struggling Haringey Borough came to call. The Urchins had lost only once this season, and had won their previous four- whilst Borough had only three wins from thirty matches and three points from the last twenty one available. The hosts went ahead on the quarter hour mark, Tommie Hoban with the opener, and they added a second four minutes after the break, a header from Mauro Da Silva Vilhete giving them a cushion after he was first to reach a corner. Twelve minutes from time a Liam Nash tap in made it three, and that was that- another comfortable Urchins victory, and Borough seven points from safety.

Second place Chatham Town were on the road to take on tenth place Lewes. The Chats had won two and lost two of their last four, and knew that they would need to improve that consistency if they were to have any chance of catching Hornchurch; whilst the Rooks got back to winning ways last weekend at Hastings, a welcome victory after three defeats, and hoped to continue in that fashion and make a start in cutting the four point gap between themselves and fifth place. When the two sides met in Kent in September, the Chats won three-nil, and Town finally made the breakthrough in this one, Jordy Robins opening goal arriving with just eleven minutes left, and that via a deflection. Four minutes into added time at the end of the match the Chats were awarded a penalty, and Jamie Yila made no mistake- two-nil, game over? Not quite, somehow Yila had time to head home a third before the final whistle was finally blown.

Billericay Town had lost three of their previous five league matches and went out of the Velocity Cup on penalties in midweek, so were desperate to bounce back, having fallen thirteen points away from the leaders at kick off. They had what looked to be a tough challenge, Horsham making the trip to New Lodge, the Hornets in eighth- eight points behind the Blues albeit having played three games fewer. The visitors were seven matches unbeaten, but they fell behind just before the half hour, Frankie Merrifield opening the scoring with his tenth of the season. They weren’t behind for long, however, Charlie Hester-Cook, in fine form of late, scoring his eleventh goal of the season just five minutes later to bring his side level. The Hornets went ahead seven minutes into the second half, Shamir Fenelon his seventh of the season, and the visitors remained firmly in control, the Hornets up to sixth- and only goal difference keeping them out of the top five.

Fourth place Wingate and Finchley played host to Hashtag United. The Blues were three unbeaten- and (partially interesting fact) were one of only two sides yet to draw a home match, so we knew what was coming, didn’t we? Exactly, a goalless draw!

Enfield Town hoped to get back into the top fives they travelled to Carshalton Athletic. Last Saturday’s three-nil win at Canvey Island ended a five match winless streak for the Towners, whilst Athletic had lost only one of their last five- but had also won only one of their last five. The Robins ended a four match losing run against these opponents by winning three-nil at the QEII Stadium in September, and just before half time they went ahead in this one, too, Oluwabunmi Babajide getting his sixteenth goal of the season in added time. The equaliser eventually arrived, Marcus Wyllie with it, and both sides had fourteen minutes left to find a winner, but neither managed it. It was enough to lift the Towners to fifth, however.

Bognor Regis Town picked up the Manager of the Month Award for January earlier this week, and Robbie Blake’s charges were only two points away from a top five spot at kick off, courtesy of a fine seven match unbeaten run- the first six of those seeing them victorious. The Rocks, hoping to avoid a curse, had the challenge of travelling to face a side without a manager and without a win since the end of September, bottom placed Kingstonian. That winless run was fifteen matches, and it had left the K’s ten points from safety, but they started well, and went ahead on twenty three minutes, Eddie Dsane opening the scoring- and it got even better for them soon afterwards as Freddie Price made it two. The Rocks then got going, and four minutes before half time Alfie Bridgman got one back with a wind assisted effort which might have ben a cross, before they levelled only two minutes into the second half, Dan Smith with the equaliser. You might have expected the hosts heads to drop, but they regained their lead with thirteen minutes to go, Lion Bello making it three-two- and could have already been ahead again by then, Dsane putting a penalty wide. No matter though, they held on for three points. The curse strikes again!

Dulwich Hamlet hoped to bounce back from late defeat against Hornchurch last weekend as they headed to Concord Rangers. That loss ended a five match unbeaten run for the side in pink and blue, whilst Rangers also had one defeat from six, although their run included rather more draws. Hamlet were hoping to do the double over the Beachboys, and they were ahead on twenty one minutes, Ademola Shokunbi with the opener, before an own goal doubled their advantage just before the hour. Rangers made a match of it when Kehinde Ailero got one back with twelve minutes left, but they couldn’t find an equaliser as Hamlet did the double.

Canvey Island and their supporters headed to another seaside, as they travelled to take on fourth bottom Margate. The Gulls have lacked consistency this season but were back in business last weekend when they hit Billericay Town for three, whilst Gate had taken only three points- all draws- from the last thirty available, and were without a victory in their last eighteen games- so perhaps it wasn’t too much of a surprise when the visitors went ahead on five minutes, Lance Akins heading home the opener. Margate were motivated for the fight, however, and were almost immediately level through Ben Greenhalgh, and then midway through the first half the same player put the hosts ahead from a free kick. Greenhalgh had his hat trick seven minutes before the break, but would only be happy if his three goals brought three points, and the visitors pulled it back to three-two in the early stages of the second half, Bradley Sach getting them back into the match. Could the hosts hold on? They could- and as well as that they climbed out of the bottom four.

They haven’t lost to the Gulls at Hartsdown Park for fourteen years.

Whitehawk welcomed Folkestone Invicta to the Sussex seaside, only a point separating the two sides at kick off. Both sides had three wins from ten, both were two unbeaten and the sides drew one-one on the Kent coast in September- so we thought this one might be close, but it took until almost the hour mark for the first goal to arrive. It went to the visitors, Eddie Allsopp with the opener, and on sixty seven minutes the Stripes gave themselves a little room to relax when David Smith made it two-nil from the spot. Surely three points were confirmed? Well, no!

Invicta weren’t relaxed for long, Charlie Walker getting a goal back with twenty minutes to go, and nine minutes later Walker delivered an equaliser. They couldn’t, could they? Walker has had a fine season, and a minute into added time the Hawks were awarded a penalty for a foul on Rob O’Toole, and of course it was their number ten who stepped up, taking his tally for the campaign to eighteen and earning his side three fabulous points where none had looked likely. Our image- we suspect- is from the lens of Andy Schofield, and we particularly like the Hawks fan in blue who is drawing the attention of the visitors to how many goals they'd been ahead!

Finally, we’d an amber battle as Cheshunt played host to Cray Wanderers. The hosting Ambers found themselves only one point above the relegation zone at kick off and with only one win from ten, whilst the travelling Wands had lost only two of their last ten but had become rather fond of draws, five of those ten finishing level. It took eighty three minutes for the opening goal to arrive, and it went to the visitors, Yahaya Bamba with it from the edge of the box- and they held on to climb to fifteenth and dump Cheshunt into the bottom four, as well as completing a double over their hosts.

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Where next?

From Gate to the Wands Archie Johnson back at Cray Wanderers
Highlights: Horsham 1 Haringey Borough 0 Another Hornets win- another narrow defeat for the struggling visitors

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