A LATE goal from the prolific Lyle Taylor undid an afternoon’s hard graft for East Thurrock, who slipped to fourth place in the Ryman Division One North.
This was a much-anticipated clash which, in truth, failed to live up to the billing of a tough, ‘winner takes all’ clash, perhaps influenced by a horrific first half injury to Rocks’ Steve Harrison, who was stretchered off and taken to hospital by ambulance with a bloodied and smashed face after an accidental collision with Rangers’ Paul Shaves.
These sides certainly had a history and, having drawn 2-2 just six days earlier at Corringham, bragging rights were at stake, if nothing else.
Rangers went into the match on the back of a stunning 6-1 win at promotion play-off rivals Wingate on Saturday, while Rocks have also accrued plenty of points in recent weeks to enhance their own promotion claims behind title winners Lowestoft.
Rangers went close to drawing first blood when a set piece move was only foiled by a diving save from Richard Wray on five minutes, but the injury to Harrison, inadvertently caught by the high boot of Shaves five minutes later, took any tempo out of the encounter,
The game developed into a midfield struggle, influenced by a strong wind and chances were few and far between.
Rocks had a great chance to take the lead on 34 minutes when a cross evaded home defenders but the impressive midfielder Max Cornhill appeared to lose his bearings as he headed high, wide and not very handsome with the goal seemingly at his mercy.
At the other end, a few minutes later, Taylor caused ructions in the visiting defence with a flashing shot across the face of goal what was just inches away from the boot of teammate Steve King who was sliding in for a vital touch.
Just before the break though, Rocks were to take the lead.
There seemed little on when a high ball was played down the left flank but the division’s top scorer Sam Higgins caused panic in the home ranks as he chased it down. He cannily spotted keeper Dale Brightley had left his line and from an impossibly acute angle managed to flick the ball high and over the onrushing keeper’s head and it bounced into the roof of the net.
The goal gave Rocks the initiative going into the break but they appeared for the second half without Higgins who was feeling an old injury.
Chris Ellerbeck took his place but proved an ineffectual replacement, getting caught offside many, many times though it would be difficult to criticise his enthusiasm, having started so few matches.
Chances were few and far between but Rangers were enjoying an increasing amount of possession as the game progressed.
King became an increasing presence as Concord pushed men forward and he was only denied by a superb piece of defending by the equally impressive home centre-back Steve Sheehan with eight minutes to go.
It looked at that point as if Rocks might hang on to a vital victory but as the game reached its conclusion further Rangers pressure saw Rocks clear the ball to the halfway line where an astute pass from Marvin Samuel changed the point of attack and when the ball was played into the box, Rocks’ defence went mob-handed to challenge for the ball which evaded everybody and fell to Taylor who gratefully controlled it and smashed it past Wray for an equaliser that Rangers undoubtedly deserved for their pressure in the second stanza
The draw allowed Wingate and Finchley, winners at Northwood, to climb above Rocks to third place and with Enfield Town victorious at Harlow and with two games in hand, the finishing straight in the play-off position race looks wide open, though Concord are just one win away from securing second spot.