Football: Rocks solid as they grab a point at Wealdstone
Date posted: 22-08-2012
Wealdstone 1 v 1 East Thurrock
EAST Thurrock rode their first half luck and came back strongly to thoroughly deserve a point at highly-fancied Ryman Premier side Wealdstone on Tuesday evening.
The home side, predicted by many as title contenders, made the brighter start and but for some unusual profligacy by star striker Richard Jolly they might have been out of sight of John Coventry’s side, but Rocks stuck to their task and despite eventually succumbing to a strike from Stones’ goalscoring maestro, they more than matched their rivals after the break and in the end it was the visitors who looked most likely to go on and win a hard-fought game.
Wealdstone forced a couple of early corners as they tried to keeper a Rocks side, weakened through holiday
and illness by the absence of fullbacks Ryan Sammons and Tom Stephen, on the back foot.
But East Thurrock weathered the initial storm and the first shot in anger came from their striker Sam Higgins though Rikki Banks gathered safely. As Rocks pushed forward the ref laid down an early marker by booking Stones’ Lee Chappell for a challenge on Kris Newby.
However, Stones began to get into their stride and Jolly looked set to score with a clean shot at goal created by the industrious Peter Dean but an outstretched Rocks leg pushed his effort wide. Rocks’ Spencer Harrison became the second player in the book as the ref levelled things up and Wealdstone started to dominate possession.
That didn’t mean Rocks didn’t have chances, indeed at times their free-flowing counter-attacking play looked possibly the more effective tactic and a fine move ended with a fierce strike from Matt Hall that defender Alan Massey was grateful to block.
Higgins is always a handful and in quick succession he dived to head just wide then saw a shot blocked.
The opening goal ought to have come on 35 minutes when Stones produced a flowing move of their own which ended with the ball at Jolly’s feet in front of goal. He had all the time he wanted to pick his spot and managed to find one about two foot over the bar.
Soon after a blistering run from Tom Pett ended with another strike that was the wrong side of the woodwork but you sensed the deadlock was about to be broken and it was no real surprise that it was Jolly who did just that, latching onto a through-ball that left Rocks’ central defenders flat-footed and he raced through and clipped a shot with real finesse past keeper Jamie Riley.
There was still time for a hint of what was to come in the closing minute of the half when Higgins took the ball wide and drilled a ball across the face of goal which somehow evaded the outstretched legs of both Sam Collins and Reiss Gilbey.
Wealdstone came out in confident mood in the second half and Riley was forced into early action with a fine save, but there also appeared to be more drive and urgency from the Rocks and slowly they began to dominate.
A turning point came when Stones defender Scott McCubbin was booked and, sensing a possible hesitancy in his game, Coventry switched Collins with the pacy Kye Ruel. Both became more influential in the game, Ruel by offering a speedy outball and Collins by beefing up the midfield and laying off some fine forward passes.
And both were involved in the equaliser on 67 minutes which came after a dramatic 20 seconds of play that saw the ball fly around the home penalty area.
It looked as if Rocks were to be denied when Banks tipped a fine strike from Collins onto the crossbar then regained his feet to block Ruel’s follow-up strike but in a mad scramble the ball wasn’t cleared properly and when it was lifted back into the danger area Banks and Massey left it for each other and
Newby nipped in to scythe the ball over the keeper. It wasn’t the cleanest strike he has ever made but it was enough to bounce into the net and set up a nerve-wracking finish.
Rocks initially went for the jugular and a period of impassioned play saw them buzzing around the Wealdstone box, with Higgins going closest with a thumping strike that Banks parried and then Higgins delivered it across the goal, again agonisingly close but just out of reach to his team-mates.
At the other end there was a moment of worry when a header from Joe Keith, who stood in superbly at left back, drifted just inches past his own post with Riley stranded.
Half chances came and went at both ends through the closing moments but no-one could get a decisive touch and honours were shared, with Rocks probably taking the moral-victory and a highly prized point back to Rookery Hill.
Rocks: Jamie Riley, Spencer Harrison, Joe Keith, Simon Peddie, Steve Sheehan, Matt Hall, Kris Newby, Reiss Gilbey, Sam Higgins, Kye Ruel, Sam Collins. Subs not used: Lewis Bentley, Lewis Frost, Charlie Bradford, Marc Gorbell, Richard Wray.