With thanks to the Enquirer
EAST Thurrock United went to the top of the Ryman One North after emerging victorious from a superb match at Rookery Hill.
Both teams contributed equally to a match that will long be remembered for its pace, quality and drama – well reffed by Ian Fissenden and his assistants too.
A quiet opening few minutes belied what was to follow and the first strike at goal came from Bar’s Louis Collins.
East Thurrock’s first threat was a cross towards Max Cornhill but he was unable to get a header goalwards.
In the eleventh minute visiting keeper Shan McWeeney did well to time his save to push the ball away from the feet of Kye Ruel as he chased down an angled pass into the box.
East Thrrock gradually began to step up their possession and some incisive play created a couple of openings, most notably when Ruel burst through and struck a low shot that rolled past McWeeney’s far post.
However, it was to the the visitors who grabbed the lead on the half hour when they powered through the middle. Simon Peddie blocked an initial strike at goal but Elvis Balic followed p to forced the ball home.
Peddie almost made his mark at the other end soon after, striking the ball just wide from a corner.
The game was flowing from end to end and Rocjks keeper Richard Wray made two great saves at his near post inside a couple of seconds, first from Josh Urquhart and then as he picked himself up, from Jose Espinosa.
Rocks countered and Reiss Gilbey was desperately unlucky not to make full contact with a driven cross from Ruel that McWeeeny was grateful to gather.
Tom Pett, and influential force in the Potters Bar midfield, shot over from distance but from the next attack in a highly entertaining encounter saw Rocks draw level when Gilbey arrived at the far post to ram the ball home from another Ruel ball into the box on 39.minutes.
A superb half of football ended in spectacular fashion in added time when Neil Richmond burst the Bar backline but McWeeney produced an outstanding, one-handed diving save to ensure the sides went into the break on level terms.
The second half picked up where the first ended, with Bar showing early and Rocks hiting them with a speedy counter-attacked powered by Kris Newby who slipped the ball to Ruel, whose 230 yard drive came back off the crossbar, with Cornhill just failing to get to the rebound.
Moments later Ruel flashed a shot across the face of goal from an acute angle and then came the game’s first moment of controversy when the same player was upended as he bore down on goal . Referee Ian Fissenden appeared to point to the spot but then caught sight of his assistant’s raised flag for an obscure and otherwise unseen offside – difficult to believe as Ruel was taking the ball through himself – and to the amazement of most people in the ground it was an indirect freekick to Bar!
Bar regained their composure after spending the early minutes of the half on the back foot and on the hour Collins went close against one of his former clubs with a strike that Wray was glad to see drift past his post.
Rocks responded in kind with Neil Richmond lashing a strike across the face of McWeeney’s goal but Bar substitute Dave Greene, who had only been on for a minute, went tit-for-tat with a fine strike that brought an equally impressive save from Wray.
On 71 minutes Rocks top scorer Newby came close to adding to his tally, forcing an instinctive save from McWeeney with a close range drive and then home side fans’ hearts were in mouths as Jordan Watson stooped to head just over the woodwork.
Rocks had a great chance to win the game with seven minutes left when the pace of Ruel set up Gilbey but the youngster couldn’t conjure up the time and space to get a strike in on goal.
With four minutes to go Joe Keith was picked out by a fine ball from Ben Wood and neat interplay set up the chance for Newby to sweep the ball home from close range and two minutes later Rocks substitute Hakeem Araba, who made a significant impact on his introduction, played a key role in setting up another attack which ended with Ruel drifting a looping header into the top corner to climax a scintillating game of football in which Potters Bar played full part.