Bill Robinson reports from Rookery Hill……
On a damp and cold evening both teams put in a performance that kept the 100 plus supporters fully entertained right up to the final seconds of the game. In a 7-goal thriller that could easily have been more if it wasn’t for both keepers being in splendid form making some spectacular save.
Thurrock manager Hakan Hayrettin took the opportunity to play most of the fringe players from his squad plus some reserves giving them all the opportunity to impress.
The game was played at a fast pace throughout and with the ball skidding off the wet playing surface errors in judgement meant that plenty of chances were being created for both sides.
East Thurrock opened the scoring in the 9th minute when the Rocks broke away on the right flank and a cross came in for Sam Higgins to strike home his first of the evening.
Thurrock soon hit back with a David Bryant goal, with the East Thurrock defence stretched by the pace of Matt Judge, his cross found Bryant who controlled the ball and the went around the keeper before sliding home the equaliser.
On 40 minutes the Rocks keeper, Richard Wray, pulled of two super saves first when Bryant headed towards goal from 10 yards his outstretched hand clawing the ball away only for Riess Gilbey to strike a shot that had Wray diving to his right to save again.
Half Time 1-1
Just after the restart it was Thurrocks keeper Aaron Omand that was saving the day, with a save from a header from Sam Higgins. But against the run of play Thurrock took the lead with another Bryant goal, some good build up play involving Ryan Andrews, Chris Saunders and Matt Judge who found Bryant with space in the penalty area and again he went around the keeper before shooting, the ball hit both posts before crossing the line.
The game was continuing to flow from end to end and either team looked capable of winning if they could only capitalise on their opportunities. On 68 minutes East Thurrock took one such opportunity after conceding a corner the Thurrock defence failed on two occasions to clear there lines and finally the ball was struck from the left side of the area giving keeper Omand no chance to save and the scores were level again.
Both Managers made some substitutions Thurrock bringing on Matt Bodkin on the left, six minutes later he restored Thurrocks lead. A through ball from left back Tom Newell found Bodkin on the left in space he ran into the penalty area and once again the keeper came out but was beaten and Bodkin blasted home from close range.
East Thurrock continued pushing forward looking to equaliser, on 79 minutes the were awarded a free kick on the right about 25 yards from goal, Ben Wood and Joe Stevens hovered around the ball and it was Stevens whose left foot curled the ball around the wall and straight into the goal.
Time was now running short and it looked like extra time was on its way, with only seconds remaining Sam Higgins got his second and the rocks winner. The move was a break straight from the rocks defence with some of the Thurrock defenders out of position, Omand made the first save but the ball came out to Higgins who found himself in space and he placed his shot safely home to give East Thurrock the victory and a place in round four.
East Thurrock : Richard Wray, Ryan Sammons, Chris Duffy, Luke Hall (Ben Wood 76), James Donovan, Sam Berry (Chris Barry 70), Kris Newby, Steve Harrison (Matt Cornhill 70), Kye Ruel, Sam Higgins, Joe Stevens.
Subs not used : Harry Cook
Thurrock : Aaron Omand, Ryan Andrews, Tom Newell, Jamie Libby, Jake Valentyne, Reiss Gilbey, Leslie Thompson, Chris Saunders, David Bryant, Matt Judge, Jamie Doyle (Matt Bodkin 67).
Subs Not Used : Leon McKenzie, Phil Anderson, Matt Paine, Lewis Godbold