Hornchurch completed the most remarkable Buildbase FA Trophy run by bringing the silverware back to Bridge Avenue after coming from behind to beat Hereford 3-1 in a thrilling Wembley Stadium final on Saturday (22nd May).
Roared on by 3,000 supporters, goals from Charlie Ruff, Liam Nash and Ellis Brown inside the final 15 minutes sealed a memorable comeback to grab non-league’s top prize against a Hereford side from the Vanarama National League North, a step above the Urchins in the pyramid.
The result brings the FA Trophy to Essex for the first time in 15 years, when current Hornchurch boss Mark Stimson guided Grays Athletic to back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2006. The Trophy’s top boss also played in Canvey Island’s 2001 success and won the first final at the new Wembley while in charge of Hertfordshire side Stevenage Borough in 2007.
With his Hornchurch side’s Pitching In Isthmian League Premier Division campaign curtailed in November due to pandemic restrictions, the club from the third tier of non-league football have only played FA Trophy fixtures since, defeating no fewer than six clubs from higher divisions including, notably, Notts County in the semi-finals to reach Wembley.
Perhaps a seventh successive scalp seemed out of reach as Hereford enjoyed the better of the first half at the national stadium and led through Tom Owen-Evans’ 13th-minute goal, sweeping home a low, deflected finish from a corner. But this Hornchurch side oozes confidence and they more than held their Step Two opposition at bay before launching a late assault on the trophy.
Hereford will rue some missed opportunities, with former Chelmsford City man Michael Bakare lobbing over and skipper Jared Hodgkiss heading off-target, but there was a warning sign for the Bulls when Nash came inches from an equaliser before seeing the ball bundled clear off the goal line.
It was that close call which really galvanised Hornchurch and, minutes later, they were level. Hereford failed to deal with a long throw from Joe Christou and, after the ball bounced off the crossbar, Ruff was on-hand to nudge it home, to the delight of those decked in red behind the goal.
With just four minutes left, those supporters were dreaming. Substitutes Chris Dickson and Ruff had made a big impact for Hornchurch and it was Dickson who headed a high ball into the path of Nash, who smashed home a fine half-volley from eight yards to fire his side into the lead.
Deep into stoppage time, Hornchurch’s victory was sealed. Hereford were caught pushing forward and Ellis Brown countered before finishing calmly to add a third and send one half of Wembley into raptures. The win saw the FA Trophy travel to Essex for just the fifth time. Now Hornchurch can proudly add 2021 to Grays’ 2005 and 2006, Canvey’s 2001 and Colchester United’s 1992.
Hornchurch: Joe Wright, Rickie Hayles, Remi Sutton, Oliver Muldoon, Mickey Parcell, Ellis Brown, Jordan Clark, Lewwis Spence (Charlie Ruff, 59), Joe Christou, Sam Higgins (Chris Dickson, 60), Liam Nash (Charlie Stimson, 90). Unused Substitutes: Sak Hassan, Finley Thackway, Ronnie Winn, Nathan Cooper.
Concord Rangers Finish Runners-Up in 2020 Final
Also reaching the FA Trophy Final recently were Concord Rangers, who competed in the delayed 2020 showpiece against Harrogate Town on Monday 3rd May. The Beach Boys were narrowly defeated 1-0 on the day, though their momentous run to the final was a huge achievement for the club, who represented Essex with pride.