Lowestoft Town 3 AFC Hornchurch 0: Blues secure promotion at the fourth time of asking
- Credit: James Bass
Lowestoft Town will play in the Conference set-up next season after cruising to a 3-0 win over AFC Hornchurch in the Ryman League play-off final at Crown Meadow.
It was fourth time lucky for the Trawlerboys, who never looked in danger of suffering more play-off heartache against a well beaten Hornchurch side.
After suffering three successive final failures, Robert Eagle settled any lingering nerves on the half-hour mark with a left-footed drive and the result was put beyond doubt within 12 minutes of the second half.
Jake Reed got his 20th goal of the season with a fine strike before a superb Curtis Haynes-Brown volley gave the Urchins the kind of mountain they never looked likely to climb.
Lowestoft made the brighter start and the first half chance of the afternoon came in the third minute when a nice cross by Eagle found Henderson, who had got across the full back, but his stabbed effort flew over the bar.
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The Blues had an even better chance a minute later when Jones' long ball forward broke into the path of Bammant, who found himself with just the keeper to beat. However, on his weaker right foot, he scuffed his shot into the ground and Hornchurch goalkeeper Inigo Echepare collected easily.
Lowestoft were having the better of a scrappy opening with Jarvis the next to go close with a drive from the edge of the area that flew inches wide.
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The Trawlerboys suffered a real blow shortly after when Henderson had to be substituted after a heavy challenge by Urchins centre half Rickie Hayles, who was booked for his trouble. After lengthy treatment Lowestoft decided the winger couldn't carry on and Michael Frew, nominally a striker, came in to fill the right midfield berth.
The substitution appeared to knock Lowestoft out of their stride and Hornchurch had a great chance to gain the lead when Leigh Bremner found space to turn in the Blues' penalty area before firing at goal but Jones did well to parry the ball away to safety.
Lowestoft gradually adjusted to not having the pacy outlet of Henderson down the right and it was from the opposite wing that they broke the deadlock.
It was a goal that had its roots in the Norwich City academy as Rossi Jarvis, after appearing to use his hand to gain possession, sprayed the ball out to the left of the penalty area to Eagle, who drove the ball home through Echepare.
Lowestoft suffered a couple of scares through some dangerous Joey May set-pieces but Jones dealt with the pressure well, punching well on several occasions.
Lowestoft were quick out of the traps again in the second half and in the 49th minute Reed made it 2-0 with a trademark finish. The in-form striker latched on to Bammant's knockdown in the Hornchurch penalty area and, with his back to goal, he held off Rainford before turning and rifling the ball home.
Eagle almost put the Blues out of sight in the 56th minute. A fine move down the right flank released Frew, whose cross was only cleared as far as the playmaker but his shot into the ground was tipped round the post by Echepare. However, from the resulting corner Lowestoft gained clear daylight from their opponents.
Eagle's corner was only partially cleared and Fisk nodded the ball to Haynes-Brown, who produced a wonderful volley from 18 yards to make it 3-0.
Hornchurch looked in complete disarray as a raft of substitutions followed but it was still Lowestoft that looked the more likely to add to their lead. A raking pass by Eagle found Reed at the back post but, on the stretch, he fired wide.
It proved to be Lowestoft's top goalscorer's last action as he made way for Erkan Okay due to a foot injury. The Blues looked to shore up the centre of midfield as Okay joined Fisk and Jarvis in the engine room in a 4-5-1 formation.
Despite the more defensive approach Lowestoft looked capable of adding to their tally with Haynes-Brown almost grabbing his second from Frew's knockdown only to see his effort blocked.
- Lowestoft Town (4-4-2): Jones, J Ainsley, Gaughran, Gleeson, Haynes-Brown, Henderson (Frew 17), Jarvis, Fisk, Eagle (A Smith 90), Bammant, Reed (Okay 72). Subs not used: A Smith, S Ainsley, Jessup.
- AFC Hornchurch (4-4-2): Echepare, Coyne (Tuohy 53), Rainford, Hayles, Spencer (Rook 60), Eyong, May (Phillips 61), Starkey, Bourne, Bremner, Purcell. Subs not used: Styles, Varnier.
- Referee: Paul Kelly
- Attendance: 2,697